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Special Feature

The sun shines on solar farming

  • from Shaastra :: vol 03 issue 03 :: Apr 2024
Root crops and other vegetables grow beneath solar panels, fed by freshwater and slivers of sunlight that stream in between the boards.

Agrivoltaic set-ups are helping farmers harvest higher revenues and yielding other benefits, too.

Back in 2018, Harpal Singh was experiencing a full-blown crisis on his 4-acre farm in Issapur village on Delhi's outskirts. As the water on his farm was salty, the 45-year-old farmer could only grow wheat or mustard — which meant he earned a net amount of about ₹30,000 per acre per year. It was not enough to get by.

But since then Singh's fortunes have dramatically improved. He has scripted his own success story, with a bit of help from providence. Looking for ways to increase his income, he met Surindar Ahuja, Chief Executive Officer of SAEV Pvt. Ltd., a company working in the sustainable energy sector. The encounter led Singh into the world of agrivoltaics or agri-photovoltaics (agri-PV), where land is harnessed for farming and solar power generation. A 27-year contract with SAEV, signed in 2018, led to the operational start of an agrivoltaic project in 2021.

Today, Singh earns about ₹100,000 per acre per year – from the sale of produce, as salary for farm management, and from the agrivoltaic set-up with a solar capacity of 2.5 megawatts now housed in his farm. Solar panels, tilted at about 12º, lean on 3.5 x 5-metre-tall concrete pillars, the height facilitating the incline. A variety of leafy greens, root crops and other vegetables grow beneath the panels, fed by freshwater and slivers of sunlight that stream in between the boards. There is ample space for tractors and other farm machines to ply. Walkways installed between the panels allow workers to clean the panels manually. Power generated from the farm — about 30 lakh units a year — is fed to an inverter and then to the grid. The set-up also houses four rainwater harvesting pits to store freshwater for irrigation and a solar panel shed for rearing dairy animals.


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