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Cloud over SKY: Gujarat scales down pilot solar project

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Gujarat government's ambitious plans to reveal a state-wide scheme where farmers can create power utilizing solar and sell surplus capacity to the electric grid, is confronting difficulties. The administration has chosen to downsize the pilot project of Suryashakti Kishan Yojana (SKY), which was declared in June a year ago. Under the plan, farmers, other than producing power for farm and irrigation purposes, can likewise sell surplus power produced to the state-owned power organizations at Rs 7 for each unit for a time of seven years.

The Government had made an announcement that it is launching the pilot project with the plan to cover 12,400 farmers in 33 regions by setting up 137 feeders. However, the plan has been downsized and the pilot is being actualized in 50 feeders covering less than 2,000 farmers, said a state government official.

Under the plan, a farmer needs to spend just 5% of the complete expense for installing the solar power project which incorporates solar panels and inverters. Central and state governments are to pay 30 % each as subsidy and the rest will 35% will be as interest-free credits to the farmers.

Additional power given to the grid will be bought at a rate of Rs 7 for each unit. Of this, half will be paid by Electricity Distribution Company and a half per unit (maximum limit of 1,000 units consistently) by the state government as a subsidy.

An official said that “It looks difficult to implement SKY in its present form. The government plans to upgrade the scheme and may replicate an ongoing scheme implemented by
Maharashtra.”

One of the difficulties which are faced by the administration is to manipulate farmers to surrender cheap subsidized power and to select SKY. As of now, a farmer gets subsidized power for 50 paise per unit.

While Gujarat has around 300 sunny days a year with high solar radiation that are perfect for solar power generation, things don't look extremely bright when it's cloudy and farmers need to buy power at market rates which come to about Rs.3.50 per unit.

“There is however a catch here. If a farmer avails the 30% loan amount subsidy from the state government, he will get only Rs.3.5 per unit of the solar power sold and not Rs.7 per. In order to sell power at Rs.7 per unit a farmer will have to let go of the state government subsidy,” said another official in the know of the development.

The state government has discovered that it is troublesome for farmers to make additional income under the present plan.

As of now, the average feeder loss in agricultural pumps is around 25-30% in the state. If SKY scheme is adapted, such loss has been benchmarked at 5%, which specialists state, is undoubtedly low.

Gujarat government is looking to transform the SKY scheme by recreating the Mukhyamantri Saur Krushi Pump Yojana took off by Maharashtra government recently. Under the high voltage conveyance scheme, farmers can install their solar panel adjoining an immense land package reserved by the administration which is near a sub-station, lessening the feeder loss

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