The voltaic system enables farmers to generate electricity and cash crops on the same farmland simultaneously. The system is characterized by the presence of photovoltaic energy and agricultural crops on the same piece of land. The solar panels installed on the farmlands to harvest photovoltaic power and the cash crops coexist in a mutually dependent manner. The solar panels placed above the crops create a microclimatic condition by providing shade. This lowers the rate of evaporation and consequently lowers the demand for water.
The Agri voltaic system can potentially multiply the income of farmers. According to Kishan Urja Suraksha Utthan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM), under Component 1, there is a defined provision for installation of an agri voltaic system between the range of 500 kilowatts and 2 million watts. The National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI) recently documented almost thirteen functional agrivoltaics in India. These operational agrivoltaics are managed by various solar PV functionaries and public institutions.
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Agri Voltaics in India
Announced in the Union Budget of 2018-19, the Government of India proposed KUSUM to introduce the agri-voltaic system in the country. The prime aim of the plan was to boost the income rate of the farmers by providing them with the facility to sell additional photovoltaic power to the grid with the help of solar power projects erected on the barren lands. Later, a slight modification of the plan enabled the farmers to grow cash crops and harvest solar power simultaneously. The KUSUM scheme is composed of the following three components:
- Component 1 – It dictated that the renewable power plant on the barren or fertile lands of the farmers can be installed with the capacity of 500MW to 2MW. The installation task can be undertaken by individual farmers, Panchayats, or Farm Producer Organizations (FPO). The generated agrovoltaic power is to be purchased by DISCOMS.
- Component 2 – This component of the scheme announced the installation of Solar Powered Agricultural Plants in the farmlands worth 17.5 lakhs. The Government declared individual farmers would be supported to erect standalone solar-powered pumps with a capacity of 7.5 horsepower.
- Component 3 – The third component includes the solarization of up to ten lakh grid-connected solar-powered agricultural pumps on barren or fertile farmlands. The Government announced that individual farmers would be helped to install solar pumps of 7.5 HP capacity. The excess production by the agrivoltaic farms will be purchased by DISCOM in feed-in tariffs, which would be further determined by the respective SERC.
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Disadvantages of Agri Voltaic Systems
Even though the solar panels provide a favourable microclimate to the crops, there are certain disadvantages that are accompanied by the installation of agri voltaic systems in farmlands:
- The agricultural yield in the photovoltaic systems is reduced. In countries like Japan, to reduce the loss of agricultural growth after the installation of solar panels, the Government directs the farmers to maintain at least 80% of growth before initiating agri voltaic. Such measures are yet to be taken in India.
- The shade produced by the solar panels over the cash crops may cause pest infestation along with other problems due to increased humidity. During windy weather, highly-built solar panels pose serious threats to crops.
- The building of an agri voltaic system may cause loose soil compaction, which harms the growth and development of crops grown.
The agrivoltaics require a one-time investment for installation with a durability of 25 years and more. The system also enables the farmers to install irrigation systems within the farm without depending on the commercial power infrastructure. The solar panels, in turn, cut down the harmful emission of carbon dioxide gas along with other pollutants released from non-renewable sources of energy. The KUSUM scheme aimed toward a sustainable and renewable farming practice in India.
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Frequently Asked Questions on Agri Voltaic System
How was the concept of agri voltaic system introduced in India?
During the Union Budget of 2018-19, the KUSUM scheme was declared, which introduced agri Voltaics in the country. The major aim of the scheme was to multiply the farmers’ income by pairing the growth of cash crops and harvesting of photovoltaic power on the same farmlands.
What are the advantages of agri voltaic systems?
The solar panels installed on the farmlands are renewable power plants that require only a one-time investment. The system does not contribute to environmental pollution in any form.
What happens to the photovoltaic power that is harvested in an agri voltaic farm?
According to Component 1 of the KUSUM scheme, the farmers can sell the generated agri voltaic power to DISCOM as per the feed-in tariff decided by the specific SERC.
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