India to swap fossil-fuel pumps for solar!

I ran across an interesting article today, explaining how India wants to swap out 26 million fossil-fuel pumps for solar.  I’m sometimes surprised at how some countries, which seem unsophisticated on the surface, can actually be extremely forward-thinking when it comes to adopting changes for the better.

Irrigation water pump in India

One reason for this may simply be the “candle is brighter in a dark room” phenomenon, where any perceived beneficial change is a welcome change.  In more advanced western societies, however, there are often numerous competing agendas that only serve to stifle or kill progress that may threaten the hegemony of the current power structure.

On the other hand, it could be that the government and business leaders in India realise that making a commitment to infrastructure changes not only provides new business opportunities, but it also allows them to become an example to the world, thereby enhancing their perceived stature as innovators and early adopters.

Having spent several months living in an Indian village in Andhra Pradesh, I became somewhat accustomed to the paradoxical juxtaposition that exists between the outward living situation of the people, and the inward commitment to vision and technical capability.  It wasn’t at all unusual to walk into a simple grass-covered hut with dirt floors, only to find a large flat-screen television, a computer, and the frequent use of cheap mobile smartphones.

Here are the opening paragraphs from this RenewEconomy article, with a link to the full article below:

The Indian government is aiming to swap out 26 million fossil-fuel-powered groundwater pumps for solar-powered ones, Bloomberg reports.

The pumps are used by farmers throughout the country to pull in water for irrigation, and currently rely on diesel generators or India’s fossil-fuel-reliant electrical grid for power. Pashupathy Gopalan, the regional head of SunEdison, told Bloomberg that 8 million diesel pumps already in use could be replaced right now. And India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy estimates another 700,000 diesel pumps that could be replaced are bought in India every year.

“The potential is huge,” said Tarun Kapoor, the joint secretary at the ministry. “Irrigation pumps may be the single largest application for solar in the country.”

The program works by subsidizing the swap, and operates in different capacities in India’s various states, sometimes subsidizing the solar pumps up to 86 percent. Thanks to that aid, and the dramaticcollapse in prices for solar power, the pumps pay themselves off in one to four years, according to Ajay Goel, the chief executive officer of Tata Power Solar Systems Ltd., a panel maker and contractor. And Stephan Grinzinger, the head of sales for a German solar water pump maker, told Bloomberg the economics will only get better: diesel prices will rise and spike during farming season, and economies of scale will help the swap program.

Two-thirds of India’s electricity is generated by coal, with natural gas and hydroelectric making up most of the rest. But the monsoon season is growing more erratic — likely due to climate change — making power from the hydroelectric dams less reliable as well. Coal is growing in economic cost for India, so power plants often sit idle, and the coal that is easy to reach would require displacing major population centers.

Read the full article here

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