The hindu editorial 18

Towards Solar-Powered Agriculture

In the past few years, solar pumps have consistently piqued (to excite or arouse especially by a provocation, challenge, or rebuff) the interest of various bureaucrats and politicians. The Prime Minister spoke about solar pumps from the ramparts (a tall, thick stone or dirt wall that is built around a castle, town, etc., to protect it from attacks) of the Red Fort in 2016. There is no shortage of ideas which the Centre, States, civil society organisations, and enterprises are adopting to enhance penetration of solar for irrigation. But how should India proceed with this impactful technology?

Case studies

Maharashtra is solarising its agricultural feeders by installing solar power plants at the substation level, through competitive bidding. Karnataka is promoting solar pumps for existing grid-connected farmers under a net-metering regime, allowing them to generate additional income by feeding back surplus energy into the grid. In eastern States, GIZ, a German development agency, has piloted (to act as a guide to) community ownership models providing water-as-a-service using solar pumps.

Despite the diversity of approaches and significant government subsidies, only about 1,42,000 pumps have been deployed (to spread out, utilize, or arrange for a deliberate purpose) till date against a target of one million pumps by 2021. Such limited demand, in a country with 132 million farmers and 28 million existing irrigation pumps, calls for a reflection on existing deployment approaches.

In India, 53% of the net-sown area is still rain-fed. Solar pumps hold potential to enhance irrigation access, advance low-carbon agriculture, reduce the burden of rising electricity subsidies, and improve the resilience (an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change) of farmers against a changing climate. But farmers’ perspectives have to be considered and the local context appreciated when deploying the technology to maximize economic returns.

What can be done

At the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), we have published three new research studies. I propose seven takeaways (a key fact, point, or idea to be remembered, typically one emerging from a discussion or meeting) for the government to consider while promoting solar for irrigation. First, target marginal farmers with smaller solar pumps, particularly in areas with good groundwater development potential. Our research, based on a recent primary survey of 1,600 farmers in Uttar Pradesh, revealed that close to 60% of marginal farmers relied on buying water, the costliest option for irrigation, or on renting pumps to meet their needs.

Second, couple solar pump deployment with micro-irrigation and water harvesting interventions at the farm and community levels. While lack of irrigation is a major bottleneck (a situation that causes delay in a process or system), 30% of farmers reported limited water availability for irrigation as a challenge.

Third, focus on technology demonstration and deploy at least five solar pumps in each block of the country. CEEW research suggests that such efforts could have a profound effect on farmers’ willingness to adopt solar pumps and spur (to incite to action or accelerated growth or development) bottom-up demand.

Fourth, in regions with already good penetration of electric pumps, prefer feeder solarisation through competitive bidding over solarisation of individual pumps. A comparative economic analysis finds that solarising individual grid-connected pumps is the costliest approach for the government to expand irrigation cover, while not being the most attractive option for farmers.

Fifth, in regions with prevailing (existing at a particular time; current) local water markets, promote community-owned solar pumps. CEEW research finds that while joint ownership drew interest from 20% of farmers, close to 80% of them were interested in buying water from a community-owned or enterprise-owned solar pump at competitive prices.

Sixth, encourage sharing of solar pumps among farmers through farmer extension programmes. Given zero marginal cost of pumping with solar, water sharing, already a prevalent practice in many parts of the country, helps put a marginal price to the water.

Seventh, provide interest-subsidy to farmers combined with reduced capital subsidy to enable large-scale deployment of solar pumps in a shorter span of time. Such an approach would cover a greater number of farmers, helping them reap the benefits of solar pumps sooner, and increase overall returns to the economy.

Guided by on-ground experiences and an expanding body of research, the government should continuously improve and innovate its support mechanisms on solar for irrigation. India must exploit (to make use of meanly or unfairly for one’s own advantage) the potential of this decentralised technology to achieve the dual national targets of 100 GW of solar and doubling farmers income by 2022 — setting a world-class example of greening the economy and overcoming its developmental challenges, simultaneously.

Courtesy- The Hindu (National)

  1. Piqued (verb) : (To excite or arouse especially by a provocation, challenge, or rebuff) (रुचि या चिज्ञासा िगाना)

Synonyms: Aggravate, Exasperate, Frost, Rouse

Antonyms: Appease, Conciliate, Mollify, Oblige, Pacify, Placate

Example: Hopefully the movie trailer will pique the interest of moviegoers and motivate them to buy tickets to see the film.

Verb forms: Pique, Piqued, Piqued

Related words: Unpiqued, (adjective) Pique (noun)

  1. Ramparts (noun) : (A tall, thick stone or dirt wall that is built around a castle, town, etc., to protect it from attacks) (प्रािीर, एक सुरक्षा अवरोधक)

Synonyms: Fortification, Occlusion, Barricade, Concealment,

Antonyms: Ditches, Entrance

Example: Without a rampart built around the area to protect the kingdom, the empire was susceptible to attacks from outsiders

Verb forms: Rampart, Ramparted, Ramparted

Related words: Rampart (verb) (fortify or surround with), बिाव

  1. Piloted (verb) : (To act as a guide to) (संिाचित, मागग चिखिाना)

Synonyms: Coach, Counsel, Lead, Mentor, Guide,

Antonyms: Follow, Trail, Hound, Ungoverned

Example: He skillfully piloted the ship into port during the storm.

Verb forms: Piloted, Piloted, Piloted

Related words: Pilotless (adjective) pilot (noun) (a person who flies an airplane, helicopter,)

  1. Deployed (verb) : (To spread out, utilize, or arrange for a deliberate purpose) (तैनात करना, िगाना)

Synonyms: Dispensed, Extended, Positioned

Antonyms: Concealed, Disarranged, Dismissed

Example: Both campaigns are deploying volunteers to the cities to encourage people to vote.

Verb forms: Deploy, Deployed, Deployed

Related words: Deployable (adjective) deployment (noun)

  1. Resilience (noun) : (An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change) (सहनशीिता, रहने की शचि, आंतररक बि)

Synonyms: Flexibility, Elasticity, Adaptability, Suppleness

Antonyms: Rigidity, Obduracy, Pessimism, Incompliance

Example: Despite a cancer diagnosis, Mohan would remain resilient and fight until the very end.

Related words: Resilient (adjective,)

  1. Bottleneck (noun) : (A situation that causes delay in a process or system.) (बाधा)

Synonyms: Surfeit, Jam-Up, Snarl, Tailback, Congestion, Impediment

Antonyms: Clearage, Purge, Lacuna

Example: Bridge construction has created a bottleneck on the southern part of Main Street.

Related words: Bottleneck (to be or cause an obstruction in) verb,

  1. Spur (verb) : (To incite to action or accelerated growth or development) (प्रोत्साचहत करना)

Synonyms: Goad, Provoke, Stimulate, Impel, Inspire, Induce, Instigate.

Antonyms: Discourage, Deterrent, Encumbrance, Inhibition

Example: When the recruiter spoke to the students, he hoped his talk would spur some of the young people into entering the military.

Verb forms: Spur, Spurred, Spurred

Related words: On the spur of the moment (phrase- without deliberation; impulsively; suddenly:), win one’s spurs, phrase ( to achieve distinction or success for the first time; prove one’s ability or worth:), spurless, (adjective) spurrer, (noun)

  1. Prevailing (adjective) : (Existing at a particular time; current.) (चवद्यमान, प्रिचित)

Synonyms: Prevalent, Widespread, Conventional, Regnant

Antonyms: Outcast, Vintage, Antiquated, Obsolescent

Example: Truth and justice usually prevail at the end of all superhero movies.

Verb forms: Prevail, Prevailed, Prevailed

Related words: Prevailingly, (adverb) prevailingness, (noun)

  1. Takeaway (noun) : (A key fact, point, or idea to be remembered, typically one emerging from a discussion or meeting.) (चविार को याि चकया िाना)

Synonyms: Carryout, Idea, Carry Through, Satiate

Antonyms: Deprive, Bereave, Restrain

Example: The takeaway was that we had to do a lot more work on the proposal before it could be shown to the governing board.

Related words: Takeaway (adjective) (of or relating to what is or can be taken away)

  1. Exploit (verb) : (To make use of meanly or unfairly for one’s own advantage) (िाभ उठाना, काम िेना, उपभोग करना)

Synonyms: Leverage, Pimp, Tour De Force, Maneuver

Antonyms: Ignore, Neglect; Misapply, Desolation,

Example: By hiding her money in a foreign bank, Varsha hopes to exploit the country’s low tax rates.

Verb forms: Exploit, Exploited, Exploited

Related words: Exploitability, exploiter (noun) exploitable (adjective)

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