Now, besides barren, fallow and agricultural lands, solar power plants can also be installed on pasture land and marshy land of farmers.
To support small farmers, solar projects smaller than 500 kW may be allowed by states based on techno-commercial feasibility, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) statement said.
The selected renewable power generator (RPG) shall commission the solar power plant within twelve months from date of issuance of Letter of Award (LoA), it added.
Moreover, there shall be no penalty on RPG for shortfall in solar power generation from minimum prescribed Capacity Utilization Factor.
As per the amendments, now MNRE will retain 33 per cent of eligible service charges for nationwide Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities.
The order mentions that the ministry may release 50 per cent of eligible service charges for the sanctioned quantity after placement of LoA for preparatory activities.
For solar pumps to be set up and used by water user associations/farmer producer organisations/primary agriculture credit societies or for cluster based irrigation system, the central financial assistance (CFA) will be allowed for solar pump capacity of higher than 7.5 HP considering up to 5 HP capacity for each individual in the group.
Eligibility for participation in the centralised tender has also been amended. During last bid, only solar pump and solar panel manufacturers were allowed to participate in the bid considering quality and post installation services for next five years.
During implementation it has been observed that these manufacturers lack workforce in the field and are dependent on local integrators for this purpose, which has caused delay in installation of solar pumps, the statement said.
To overcome this situation and also ensure quality and post installation services, it is now decided to allow joint venture of manufacturer of solar pump/solar panel/solar pump controller with integrators.
The order further says that quantity equivalent to 10 per cent of total quantity under a particular category of pumps of a cluster will be allocated to the lowest bidder and balance will be kept on market mode for all selected bidders including the lowest bidder.
This assured allocation will bring seriousness and competition in the bid.
The guidelines related to specifications and testing have also been amended to avoid repetitive testing of same model and for faster implementation.
Solar pump specifications were updated by MNRE in July 2019 and same are being used for Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyaan (PM-KUSUM) scheme.
As part of amended guidelines separate bid price for solar water pumping system with Universal Solar Pump Controller (USPC) will be invited and subsidy will be made available for these pumps according to benchmark price of solar pumps without USPC, even if price discovered for solar pumps without USPC is less than the benchmark price.
Standalone solar pumps are used only for 100-150 days in a year and solar energy generated during the balance period is not utilised.
In order to make effective use of solar energy it was proposed to introduce USPC, which will not only run the water pump but can also run other electric equipment like cold storage, battery charging, flour mill, etc.
Installation of USPC will increase the income of farmers, which is the aim of the PM-KUSUM scheme, the ministry said.
The statement said that now farmers will be provided solar panels and they will be able to use the generated solar power to meet the irrigation needs and sell the surplus solar power.
DISCOMs will buy surplus power from them at the pre-determined rate to be decided by the respective state/state electricity regulatory commission (SERC).
Solar PV capacity up to two times of pump capacity in kW is allowed under the scheme.
The scheme guidelines were silent on CFA applicable for solarisation of large capacity pumps used by water user associations and community/cluster based irrigation system.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had approved PM-KUSUM scheme on February 19, 2019.