Chief Minister of Gujarat, Smt Anandiben Patel awarded a certificate of appreciation to the Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali (DSUUSM) at the launch of the 2016 edition of Krushi Mahotsav or Agriculture Festival in Anand, Gujarat today.

The Mandali which holds the distinction of being the world’s first solar Irrigation cooperative is being felicitated for providing to its members risk-free climate smart income from energy sales to the local DISCOM. The idea of Solar Pump Irrigators’ Cooperative Enterprise (SPICE) was developed by the IWMITata Water Policy Research Program (ITP), a partnership between the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and the Tata Trusts with support from the CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). IWMI had successfully piloted a single farmer SPaRC (Solar Power as Remunerative Crop) model in Anand district last year in which the farmer’s solar irrigation pump was connected to the electricity grid presenting him with the choice to sell the surplus power generated when the fields are not being irrigated. The idea has now been further refined and institutionalized with the formation of Dhundi Solar Pump Irrigators’ Cooperative Enterprise.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr Tushaar Shah, from IWMI said, “We are excited that the government is recognizing the potential of the solar irrigation cooperative model and supporting us. This concept will not only benefit the farmers by supplementing their incomes but will also benefit the environment by incentivizing farmers to conserve groundwater and instead sell the surplus power generated. If we solarize India’s 20 million grid-connected electric pumps that farmers currently use to pump groundwater, it would save the country around Rs 60,000 – 70,000 crores of farm power subsidy as well.”

The solar cooperative, DSUUSM, was formed earlier this year around mid-February by bringing together six small vegetable farmers in the village of Dhundi in Gujarat. Each farmer installed a solar irrigation pump in their fields by contributing a partial amount with IWMI pitching in the rest. The solar pumps were connected to the power grid of the state DISCOM, Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited (MGVCL) and a 25 year power purchase agreement was signed recently which allows the farmers to sell back the surplus energy at a rate of Rs 4.63 per kWh equivalent of solar energy. “Once full benefits of the Dhundi pattern of solar irrigation are recognized, we expect that the government and DISCOMs will be willing toreplicate it and offer farmers a more remunerative price for their surplus energy sales.” Said Dr Shah. The current installed capacity of the Dhundi solar cooperative is 56.4 kW and the IWMI team plans to expand it to 100 kWp over the next few months.

Pravinbhai Parmar, the secretary of the Dhundi Solar Cooperative who received the award said, “I am proud that our Mandali has received this prestigious award from the Chief Minister and I am excited to be a part of this project.”

With Indian government’s goal of achieving 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022, the SPICE model offers a potential way of capturing the power of the sun and moving closer to the target.

First published by IWMI, read the original story. Photo: IWMI/Prashanth Vishwanathan/Flickr