Govt to introduce solar plan for dairy sector

THE GOVERNMENT is planning to shift the country’s entire milk sector to solar energy-from farmers onward to processors-through an upfront subsidy of 30%. A policy, in this regard will be announced soon, Shri Dilip Rath, Chairman, NDDB told recently.

A big chunk of India’s milk business runs on a cooperative business model, which is essentially a collectivised model of dairy farming where producers and milk processors are stakeholders. In the first phase, the milk sector’s power consumption from conventional sources-mainly grid electricity and diesel-will come down by about 25%.

Farmers will also be able to sell back surplus power to a solar grid at rates decided by state agencies. Speaking at a workshop on Solar Energy for dairy farmers, Shri Rath stated that NDDB has started application of Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) technology in dairy processing plants to partly reduce the thermal energy in dairy plants.

CST can reduce the annual heat demand of the processing plant from 5 to 15%. With the help of capital subsidy support from Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), NDDB has completed 15 CST installations in dairy cooperative plants in four states i.e. Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat and Karnataka. The total installed collector area at these locations is around 8,000 m2 of aperture area.

NDDB has started propagation of solar energy run village cooperatives across the country. Support under National Dairy Plan I was provided to 125 such installations across 18 states and results have been encouraging. A uniform policy framework with suitable grant support can help solarise entire village level dairy operations, which would reduce energy cost and contribute significantly to environment protection. In NDDBpromoted Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali Ltd. at Mujkuva village near Anand in Gujarat, 11 farmers have surrendered their access to the state subsidised electricity and opted for solar energy and supplying surplus energy to grid.

Drawing inspiration from this Mujkuva experiment, in which International Water Management Institute and Tata Trusts played a role, the Gujarat government has already announced an ambitious Suryashakti Kisan Yojana (SKY) to enable farmers to generate solar power for meeting irrigation requirements and also to sell the surplus power to the grid to augment their incomes.

As per the scheme, farmers having existing electricity connection will be given solar panels as per their load requirements. The State and Central governments will give 60 per cent subsidy on the cost of project. The farmer is required to put in 5 per cent of the total cost, while 35 per cent will be provided to him as an affordable loan with interest rates of 4.5-6 per cent. The scheme is for 25 years and during the first 7 years, farmers would be given ₹ 7 per unit of electricity they supply (₹3.5 by discom and ₹ 3.5 by the State government). Subsequently, the feed-in-tariff will drop to ₹ 3.5 per unit.