The rise of solar co-ops: Collective action for installation advancement

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India, with a population of 1.4 billion, has become the worlds most populated nation. This rise in population, along with impressive economic growth, has intensified energy demands. To meet this growing demand, India has set a target to achieve 50 percent cumulative electric power installed by 2030 from renewables and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.

The Indian Solar Energy Market is expected to register a CAGR of 19.80% during 2024–2029, as per a Mordor Intelligence report.

Solar cooperatives can help accomplish these sustainable energy goals. 

What are solar co-ops?

Solar cooperatives are community-based organizations formed by individuals, residential societies, farmers or even businesses with the goal of collectively installing and managing solar power systems. By pooling resources and expertise, members of these cooperatives can overcome common barriers to solar adoption, such as high upfront costs, technical complexities, and bureaucratic hurdles. 

India is witnessing an increase in solar cooperatives, and this is helping in increasing solar adoption. For instance, the Solar Pump IrrigatorsCooperative Enterprise (SPICE) was established in 2016 at Dhundi, a village in the Anand district of Gujarat, where there is no access to the agricultural grid. Thus, the farmers were using expensive and eco-destructive diesel pumps to irrigate their crops. The six vegetable farmers of this co-operative decided to switch over to solar water pumps for irrigation. They installed an SPP with an aggregate capacity of 56.4 KW intheir fields with the help of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) by contributinga partial amount. 

This project can generate almost 85,000 units of electricity per year. The farmers have signed a 25-year PPA with Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited (MGVCL) to sell the surplus power at Rs. 4.63 per kWh. In order to irrigate their total seven acres of land, the farmers would use 40,000 units of power and infuse the remaining 45,000 units into the grid; thus, they could earn over Rs. 2 lakhs in revenue per year from the distribution company.  

How solar co-ops help with installation advancement

Solar cooperatives promote energy self-sufficiency and resilience at the community level be it for individual use or agriculture, healthcare etc. 

Heres how solar cooperatives can play a significant role in promoting collective action for the advancement of solar installations: 

  1. Pooling Resources: Solar co-ops enable individuals to pool their resources together and invest in larger solar installations, which might otherwise be financially unattainable for individual members.
  2. Community Purchasing Power: By purchasing solar panels, equipment, and installation services in bulk, solar co-ops can negotiate better deals with suppliers and installers. This lowers the overall cost of solar installations, making them more accessible to members.
  3. Knowledge Sharing: Co-op members can share their experiences, knowledge, and best practices related to solar energy. This collective learning environment helps to educate members about the benefits of solar energy, technical aspects of installations, and ways to maximize energy savings.
  4. Policy Influence: Solar co-ops can engage in advocacy efforts to promote policies and regulations that support the expansion of solar energy. By amplifying their collective voice, co-op members can help remove barriers to solar adoption.
  5. Community Empowerment: Solar co-ops foster a sense of community and collaboration among members. By bringing together a large number of participants, solar co-ops can scale up solar installations more quickly and efficiently than individual efforts. 

The government of India has introduced various initiatives and incentives to promote rooftop solar installations, and organizations such as the Solar Energy Society of India (SESI) and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) are actively supporting the growth of solar cooperatives through capacity building, technical assistance, and financial support. 

Solar cooperatives can harness the power of collective action, and unlock the full potential of solar power. 

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