Off-Grid Solar Solutions Provider Oorja Wins $100,000 for Installing Solar Pumps

The Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge encourages problem solvers focused on socially conscious projects and ventures


Oorja Development Solutions has won the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge for its community solar pumping systems implemented in rural India through the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) business models.

The cash prize is an amount of $100,000, which is expected to help fund the company’s projects in the rural agricultural sector.

The competition is an initiative by Cisco to encourage problem solvers focused on socially conscious projects and ventures. Overall, 335 teams competed for $330,000 in prizes. The participants competed based on their work in technological innovations being developed to solve pressing global issues plaguing the world today.

Oorja Development Solutions, which is a spin-out company from Imperial College London, was started in 2016 by Amit Saraogi, a social entrepreneur, and Dr. Clementine Chambon from the Department of Chemical Engineering. The company aims to tackle the lack of access to energy in the Indian rural community by installing off-grid solar energy systems. The venture is helping to replace diesel generators that are currently being used in agricultural and industrial applications. The company’s round the clock supply of renewable energy services help businesses increase income due to the increased energy efficiency of the products and saving on diesel costs, helping the transition away from fossil fuels.

Diesel irrigation pumps are financially burdensome to farmers. Solar pumps are an economically viable alternative to diesel pumps as they have almost no operation costs once installed. Solar pumps have low maintenance and long product life. Since 2016, Oorja has run three community solar pump projects in Uttar Pradesh and is planning to launch a similar operation in Assam.

Realizing the impact these solar pumps can have in the turnaround of the agricultural sector, the central government has approved the launch of the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) program for farmers. This program is aimed at helping the farmers install solar pumps and grid-connected solar power projects. The program aims to add a solar capacity of 25,750 MW by 2022.

Various state governments like Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh have also allocated funds for similar programs that aim to provide some relief to the farmers in the country’s distressed agriculture sector. Mercom had also reported that the Gujarat government had announced a similar program under which it would provide farmers with solar panels to generate solar power on their lands.

According to a joint study by Greenpeace India, Gujarat Energy Research Management Institute (GERMI), and IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program, if net-metered solar pumps are installed across all states for complete agricultural energy consumption, India would surpass its distributed solar goal of 40 GW by a wide margin.

Image credit: GIPL Solar

Ramya Ranganath is an Associate Editor and Writer for Mercom Communications India. Before joining Mercom, Ramya worked as a Senior Editor at a digital media supply chain solutions company. Throughout her career, she has developed end-to-end content for various companies in a wide range of domains, including renewables. Ramya holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology and is passionate about environmental issues and permaculture.