7 PM | From Plate to Plough: In the shade of solar trees | 5th August, 2019

Context: As indicated by the survey conducted by ICRIER (Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations), Solar Trees can be helpful in doubling the farmers income by 2022.

ABOUT ICRIER: Established in August 1981, ICRIER is an autonomous, policy-oriented, not-for-profit, economic policy think tank. ICRIER’s main focus is to enhance the knowledge content of policy making by undertaking analytical research that is targeted at informing India’s policy makers and also at improving the interface with the global economy.    

What is a Solar Tree?

Solar Tree is made of metal structure and has solar panels at the top instead of branches of real tree. Solar energy is collected by Solar panel and converts it into electricity and uses it for batteries, charging of mobile phones, portable computers and tablets. The panels and lighting use this collected energy. No. of solar panels are used to give the shape of a tree and arranged in a tall tower/pole.

TREE Stands For:

  • T – Tree generating
  • R – Renewable
  • E – Energy and
  • E – Electricity

Solar Trees are efficient for capturing energy from sunlight and wind for producing energy as plants in nature.

What is the Need of Solar Tree?

  • Less Land Requirement: In comparison traditional PV system, Solar Tree requires less land. Therefore a plant is generating maximum energy by using minimum land.
  • Efficient Energy Generation: Solar Tree can generate energy very efficiently. 
  • Collection of Energy from Wind: Solar Tree with flexible stem rotating in any direction and by shaking themselves is able to produce energy also from wind like a natural tree.

Pilot Projects in world:

Pilot projects in Massachusetts, Arizona, Germany, China, Croatia, Italy, Japan and France look encouraging for mixing crops with solar panels, referred to as “dual-use” farms because they offer both agricultural and electrical production. So far, the pilots have been extremely successful in showing that you can grow crops and make electricity at the same time.

Need of Solar Trees in India:

  • India has set a target of producing 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
  • India’s aspires to be one of the frontrunners in the International Solar Alliance for clean energy.
  • Indian government aims at doubling farmer’s income by 2022. However, it is almost impossible to attain this goal by 2022 with the set of policies that the government has adopted. To achieve the target, the remaining four years till 2022-23 require real incomes of farmers to go up by 13-15 per cent per annum. 

How it can Double the Farmer’s income?

  • Replace all pump-sets, especially diesel ones, with solar pumps and the excess power generated through solar panels can be purchased by state governments at a price that gives the farmer a good margin over his cost of producing solar power.
  • Encourage farmers to grow “solar trees” on their lands at a height of about 10-12 feet in a manner that enough sunlight keeps coming to plants below. The farmer can keep growing two irrigated crops as he has been doing, but the solar tree generates a lot of excess power that can be purchased by the state government.
  • The economic calculations suggested that farmers can be given one lakh/acre per annum as net income, with 6% increase every year for the next 25 years.
  • Power consumption per hectare in Indian agriculture is still very low. The farmers can sell the excess of solar energy generated to the state governments to earn a fixed source of income.

Problem with the solar tree initiative in India:

  • Initial cost is too high.The problem is of mobilising enough capital to install these solar trees. 
  • The state should be ready to do the power purchase agreement.
  • The farmer has to assure is that for 25 years he will not convert his land to other uses.

Conclusion: Given that power consumption per hectare in Indian agriculture is still very low, this holds great promise for several poorer states. In one acre, 500 solar trees can be installed in such a manner that even tractors can move through them and farmers can keep growing their normal crops. It does not impact their productivity as there is ample sunlight coming from the sides for the crops to perform photosynthesis. A global survey on solar tree found that it is being practiced in many countries from Japan to China to Germany, and India is ripe for this. To achieve the dual targets of doubling farmer’s income by 2022 and producing 100 GW of solar energy by 2022, India must look forward for such innovative initiatives.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-farmers-solar-energy-doubling-farmers-incomes-5878303/

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