Rajasthan farmers can now produce solar power on their non-arable land

The Ashok Gehlot govt has made provisions for farmers to sell the power to DISCOM and make money out of fallow lands

Photo courtesy- social media
Photo courtesy- social media

Prakash Bhandari

Farmers of Rajasthan, who own uncultivable land or such land that are not used for farming, shall now be able to use his holding for setting up solar power plants and solar farms without the requirement of land conversion. Such farmers would now be permitted to sub-let his holdings for setting up of solar power projects where the provisions of the state’s Tenancy Act and Land Revenue Act will not come as hindrances. Solar power producers shall also be allowed to purchase private land from Khatedar (legal land owner) for setting up of solar power plants in excess of the ceiling limit in accordance with the provisions of Ceiling Act, 1973 with the prior approval of the state government. The state government aims to achieve a target of 30 GW of solar power by 2024-25. This new policy of allowing the development of solar plants in the farm land would help the farmers in earning revenue from their unutilised land.

According to the new solar power policy, farmers will be able to set up decentralised solar power plants of .5 to two Megawatt (MW) capacity on unutilised or barren land within five kms of 33/11 KV sub-stations of the state-owned power distribution company DISCOM. Thus, farmers will now be able to produce solar power which they can sell to the DISCOM. It’s a landmark decision that would give a boost to solar power production and would pave the way for increased income from non-agricultural activity.

“This scheme of encouraging farmers in installing solar plants or leasing out their lands for the same has a magic effect. The state government’s agency, Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation (RREC), has received a total of 12,863 applications before the state budget. Under this scheme, the state government will assure the producers of purchasing the produced power at the rate of Rs 3.14 per unit for the next 25 years,” said B D Kalla, state energy minister.

Rajasthan is a leader in the country for utilising solar energy for irrigation purposes and this has resulted in increased agriculture output.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has visualised the need for encouraging the use of solar pumps in the villages by the farmers and in the state budget, Gehlot announced a provision of Rs 267 crore for setting up of solar pumps in the rural areas. Under the Kusum Yojana, farmers in the tribal areas are encouraged to use the solar pumps for irrigation and under this scheme, the state government gives a subsidy of 30 per cent. Gehlot announced an increase of this subsidy and the farmers of the tribal sub plan area would get Rs 45,000 as grant from the government. This would be offered initially to 5,000 farmers and the government has provided a budget of Rs 22.60 crore for it.

Energy minister Kalla said that the state aims to achieve a target of 30 GW of solar power by financial year (FY) 2024-25. Of this, utility or grid-scale solar parks will account for 24 GW, distributed generation is expected to account for 4 GW, the solar rooftop will total 1 GW, and solar pumps will make up the remaining 1 GW.

The state government is planning to develop 33 district headquarters as ‘Green Energy Cities’ in the next five years by installing 300 MW of solar rooftop systems.

Net metering will be allowed for rooftop solar systems of up to 50 per cent of the capacity of the distribution transformer of the area.

According to the new policy, solar rooftop systems can also be set up under the gross metering regulations as per the guidelines prescribed by the state or central government. Solar rooftop systems up to one MW capacity will be allowed under this.

The state will also promote stand-alone solar systems to provide electricity to households in remote villages and solar PV pumps for pressure irrigation systems. Thus, in near future, solar power generation would become a cottage industry in the state.

The policy also talks about encouraging solar projects for captive use under various scenarios and the exemption of transmission and wheeling charges and electricity duty.

“The state government has floated a company –Rajasthan Solar Park development Company Ltd, a special purpose vehicle of the RERC, for the development of infrastructure and management of solar parks. RERC will develop solar parks in Rajasthan on its own or through any other SPV, which may be created as required.

The state is also keen to support solar projects with storage systems like battery storage, pumped hydro storage or any other grid-interactive storage system. The DISCOMs plans to procure up to 5 per cent of their RPO target from renewable energy projects with storage systems at a tariff discovered through competitive bidding in addition to the RPO target.

The state will give extra attention to the development of solar parks by the private sector. The solar power park developer will be allowed to acquire agricultural land from the titleholder for developing solar parks above the ceiling limit per the provisions of Rajasthan imposition of ceiling on Agriculture Holding Act, 1973, informed Kalla.

The state is also planning to support electric vehicle charging in the state. The charging infrastructure will be developed as per the guidelines and standards issued by the Ministry of Power (MoP) and the Central Electricity Authority. The EV charging stations may be established by the state or central public sector undertakings, private operators or under the public-private partnership (PPP) models.

The government aims to encourage manufacturing facilities for solar equipment in Rajasthan, leading to the development of the solar energy ecosystem and employment generation.

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