In India, solar energy constitutes just 1% of the energy mix, but the Government aims to increase this to around 10% by 2020 by adding 100,000 megawatts of solar energy generation capacity. Most of this additional capacity will come from megawatt power plants, but if farmers were able to set up solar panels, generate energy for on-farm needs such as irrigation, and sell the excess power back to the grid, it could rejuvenate the farm sector and augment the incomes of millions of farmers. The Solar Power As a Remunerative Crop (SPaRC) project aims to address this potential, and proposes 'growing solar power’ as a remunerative 'crop'.
SPaRC was established by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and is being scaled up with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). SPaRC offers farmers a guaranteed buy-back of the surplus solar power they produce, provided they are connected to the electricity grid. This guarantee allows farmers to invest in solar powered pumps, which reduce the use of carbon intensive diesel pumps on farms.
However, these pumps could add to the problem of groundwater depletion since solar energy use for pumping is considered to be free. Encouraging the sale of excess energy to the grid helps counteract this. SPaRC is being piloted in the state of Gujarat, India, which receives nearly 3,000 hours of sunlight each year.
Relationship to CSA
Solar energy reduces the amount of GHG emissions and overall dependence on fossil fuels. It is estimated that through the use of solar power in India´s groundwater economy, annual carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by nearly 6%. Using solar energy as a remunerative crop augments the incomes of farmers, improving resilience and livelihoods.
Impacts and lessons learned
If SPaRC is to become a success, a conducive institutional and policy environment is a precondition. Providing a purchase guarantee on solar energy and making farmer generated solar energy an integral part of the National Solar Mission could help achieve this. Adopting the cooperative model can also be an effective way to reduce transaction costs from many dispersed individual sellers.
Shah T. 2015. Why India’s leap into the solar-powered age must take along farmers. CCAFS Blog. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).https://ccafs.cgiar.org/blog/why-india%E2%80%99s-leap-solar-powered-age-must-take-along-farmers This CCAFS blog posts explains how improvements in harnessing solar energy can help farmers become active players in the renewable energy market, boosting climate-smart agriculture.
Shah T, Durga N, Verma S. 2015. Harvesting solar riches. Financial Express April 01, 2015.http://www.financialexpress.com/article/fe-columnist/harvesting-solar-riches/59262/ This Financial Express article covers how the farm sector can profit from generating solar power, by either using it to power irrigation or selling the surplus.
Cherian S. 2015. A Gujarat farmer who supplies power to grid. Business Standard June 13, 2015.http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/a-gujarat-farmer-who-supplies-power-to-grid-115061200812_1.html This Business Standard article tells the story of an Indian farmer who successful uses solar energy to power the pump for his irrigation, while selling excess power to the utility grid.
IWMI. 2015a. Payday for India’s first ever “sunshine farmer”.http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/2015/06/payday-for-indias-first-ever-sunshine-farmer/ This IMWI news story explains how a smallholder farmer in India is capable of harvesting sunshine to conserve water and boost income.