The project will be implemented under the aegis of Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd (GUVNL) and four distribution companies (DISCOMS) - Daxin Gujarat Vij Company Ltd, Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Ltd, Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Ltd and Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Ltd, according to a state government notification issued last month.

The purchase of solar-powered water pumps will be initiated in the coming days through tenders, GUVNL's chief engineer (technical) Y D Brahmbhatt informed.

These submersible pumps will be of 3 to 5 horse power (HP) and cost Rs 6 lakh per unit to the government, totalling Rs 60 crore for 1,000 pumps, he said.

"Our main aim is to reduce the burden on our existing power plants and encourage the farmers to opt for solar powered pumps for their regular irrigation needs. We have given a go ahead to this project after successful testing of 25 such pumps for last one-and-half years, as we received very good feed back," he said.

As per a recent notification issued by state energy and petro-chemicals department, the solar pumps are necessary as 20 percent of total electricity produced in the state is being used for agriculture purpose, which ultimately increases the financial burden on government in the form of subsidy.

The government is also worried about the long list of pending applications seeking power connections for irrigation.

The state government has to incur huge expenditure to set up basic infrastructure for providing new power connections for agriculture purpose, stated the notification announcing the commencement of the project.

"These solar-based water pumps will be given to those who have already applied for regular agriculture electricity connection as on March 31, 2014. At present, we are going to distribute 1,000 such pumps across the state with the help of DISCOMS," said Brahmbhatt.

"However, farmers will have to pay a nominal price, which is Rs 1,000 per HP for tribal farmers and Rs 5,000 per HP for other farmers. Thus, it will come to just Rs 15,000 for a farmer opting for a 3 HP pump. The pump supplier will have to bear the maintenance of these pumps for 5 years. The life
span of these pumps is estimated to be 20 years," Brahmbhatt said.

Out of the 1,000 pumps, 700 will be distributed by Paschim Gujarat Vij Company. The remaining 300 will be distributed equally by three DISCOMS of the state.

"The western part of the state has maximum number of agri-based electricity connections. In addition, ground water level is high in this region, which is suitable for low capacity pumps of 3 to 5 HP. In some arid regions of north Gujarat, this may not work, as the water levels are very low, for which you need high capacity pumps running on regular electricity," said Brahmbhatt.

The pumps will work on stand alone 'Home Grid' system, which makes them independent of the regular electricity supply.

"These solar-based pumps are not connected with the main grid, as they work on 'Home Grid' system. The electricity generated by the solar panels installed near the pump can run it between 9 AM to 5 PM, which is sufficient for a farmer. We will also provide a mobile charger point and night lamp facility connected with this pump system," he added.

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