Solar ambitions dim as Pampore’s 5 MW agro-solar project faces a decade of stagnation

Srinagar, Dec 8: In a setback to the ambitious plans for sustainable energy and agricultural integration, the 5 MW Agro-Solar Plant envisioned as a replacement for an existing gas turbine at Pampore by the J&K Power Development Corporation (JKPDC) has hit a decade-long roadblock.

The once-promising project, conceived ten years ago, has encountered insurmountable challenges, failing to progress beyond the complexities of the tendering process.

   

Officials said that more than ten years ago, both the Government and the Board of Directors of the corporation approved the project.

The initiative took shape on a parcel of 200 kanals of land after the cessation of gas turbines.

However, despite the passing of a decade the project has remained confined to papers only as there has been no physical progress on the project so far.

The agro-solar initiative, rooted in the concept of a Saffron-based PV Power Plant, aimed to showcase the viability of coexisting saffron cultivation with solar power generation.

An agricultural expert highlights the transformative potential of the project: “By converting saffron fields into a mega Solar Power Plant, not only could we meet the Kashmir grid’s energy demands, but we could also significantly boost farmers’ income. It’s a pioneering effort at the intersection of agriculture and renewable energy.”

The global movement towards distributed solar, particularly in agriculture, gained momentum with India’s KUSUM scheme in 2018.

However, officials note the less-explored aspect of Agrivoltaics: “While KUSUM primarily focused on solar-powered pumps, the co-location of solar with agriculture, known as Agrivoltaics, has not witnessed the anticipated growth here. There’s immense untapped potential in this approach, offering dual benefits.”

Agrivoltaics, characterised by solar plants at elevated levels, enables crop production beneath or between solar panels.

“Globally, Agrivoltaics has demonstrated its potential in increasing farmer incomes, agricultural production, and local employment. The solar panels act as a protective shield for crops against harsh weather conditions, providing an additional layer of resilience.”

Addressing the cost concerns associated with Agrivoltaics, experts suggest, “While elevated structures may incur a 10-15% higher cost, the long-term agricultural benefits outweigh this initial investment. To kickstart installations, a revised tariff structure, perhaps starting at Rs 5/kWh for the initial three years, could be a game-changer.”

Experts unanimously emphasise the need for proactive measures from the J&K Government, experts say: “Provisions allowing open access installers to utilise agricultural lands for solar capacities can spur exponential growth in corporate solar procurement. It’s not just about energy, but a holistic approach to economic sustainability.”

“Industries can contribute significantly by investing in and procuring energy directly from farmers, aligning with a broader strategy of sustainable agriculture and energy partnership.”

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