Following MIT D-Lab's engagement with the CITE Solar Powered Water Pump Evaluation described below, D-Lab is pursuing additional projects in this area.
Increasing crop yields through irrigation
Irrigation plays a key role for smallholder farmers in increasing crop yields and, in many cases, allowing them to cultivate during the dry season, on land which would otherwise be fallow for up to four months of the year. However, many of these farmers don’t have access to reliable grid electricity and/or pay the high cost of diesel fuel to pump water for irrigation.
As prices for solar panels continue to fall rapidly, solar powered water pumps are becoming more accessible to farmers with small plots of land. A team of CITE and MIT D-Lab researchers evaluated the solar pumps on offer for smallholder farmers near Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh and Kanakapura, Karnataka, as well as farmers using pumps for salt production in the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.
Assessing solar pump use in India
The team traveled to India in early 2016 to assess the technical, social, cultural, and economic aspects of solar pump use in those three locations in cooperation with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)’s Hariyali Sustainable Energy program, Development Alternative’s TaraGram initiative, and SunEdison’s partnership with the local electricity distribution company. The team spent time taking technical measurements of the pump’s performance and output, and interviewed stakeholders including manufacturers, NGO facilitators, landowners, pump installers, and the farmers themselves.
For this evaluation, the team evaluated the solar pumps’ suitability and sustainability, in partnership with the Technology Exchange Lab, TERI University’s Solar Testing Lab in Delhi, and Pakeen, our partner farm in Massachusetts.
The evaluation includes a product-by-product comparison of solar pump systems and some of their individual components. The report also includes a sensitivity analysis of the most important factors of affordability and suitability, including system right-sizing and a discussion of the three different financing models used to purchase the systems visited.