Renewable energy for sustainable agriculture
Centre for Energy Studies, Indian Institute of Technology
2 Centre for Rural Development & Technology, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India
* Corresponding author:
Accepted: 30 April 2010
Agriculture is the sole provider of human food. Most farm machines are driven by fossil fuels, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and, in turn, accelerate climate change. Such environmental damage can be mitigated by the promotion of renewable resources such as solar, wind, biomass, tidal, geo-thermal, small-scale hydro, biofuels and wave-generated power. These renewable resources have a huge potential for the agriculture industry. The farmers should be encouraged by subsidies to use renewable energy technology. The concept of sustainable agriculture lies on a delicate balance of maximizing crop productivity and maintaining economic stability, while minimizing the utilization of finite natural resources and detrimental environmental impacts. Sustainable agriculture also depends on replenishing the soil while minimizing the use of non-renewable resources, such as natural gas, which is used in converting atmospheric nitrogen into synthetic fertilizer, and mineral ores, e.g. phosphate or fossil fuel used in diesel generators for water pumping for irrigation. Hence, there is a need for promoting use of renewable energy systems for sustainable agriculture, e.g. solar photovoltaic water pumps and electricity, greenhouse technologies, solar dryers for post-harvest processing, and solar hot water heaters. In remote agricultural lands, the underground submersible solar photovoltaic water pump is economically viable and also an environmentally-friendly option as compared with a diesel generator set. If there are adverse climatic conditions for the growth of particular plants in cold climatic zones then there is need for renewable energy technology such as greenhouses for maintaining the optimum plant ambient temperature conditions for the growth of plants and vegetables. The economics of using greenhouses for plants and vegetables, and solar photovoltaic water pumps for sustainable agriculture and the environment are presented in this article. Clean development provides industrialized countries with an incentive to invest in emission reduction projects in developing countries to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions at the lowest cost. The mechanism of clean development is discussed in brief for the use of renewable systems for sustainable agricultural development specific to solar photovoltaic water pumps in India and the world. This article explains in detail the role of renewable energy in farming by connecting all aspects of agronomy with ecology, the environment, economics and societal change.
© INRA, EDP Sciences, 2010