‘Solar parks’ to get more electricity on the cards

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=150770&date=2011-09-26

‘Solar parks’ to get more electricity on the cards
M Azizur Rahman

The government has moved to build several ‘solar parks’ to generate around 135 megawatts (mw) of electricity by installing solar power plants at a cost of US$ 641 million for supplying electricity to the national grid, top officials said Sunday.

The solar parks are planned to be established on lands owned by different state-owned entities in the country’s relatively more underdeveloped northern region, khas lands on char areas and lands owned by Bangladesh Railway (BR) in Chittagong and Dhaka, said the official.

Around 115 mw of electricity is planned for generation on government lands, while 20 mw on railway lands.

Officials said the government has targeted to establish solar parks as part of its drive to diversify the country’s energy sources for electricity generation and ensure clean energy expansion.

State-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) will float an international tender soon, seeking bids from competent firms for installation of solar power plants on build, own and operate (BOO) basis in solar parks, a senior power ministry official said.

Once the private sponsors starts generating electricity in the solar parks, it will be supplied directly to the national grid, said the official.

He said the prospective locations of solar panel include Rajbari of Rajshahi, Ishwardi of Pabna, Char area of river Padma and the BR-owned areas in Chittagong and Dhaka.

The final selection of the sites will be completed soon, Additional Secretary of Bangladesh’s Power Ministry Tapos Kumar Roy told the FE.

He said generation of several hundreds of megawatts of electricity from the solar parks is the government’s ultimate target.

But initially the government is eyeing to generate around 135 mw of electricity from the solar parks, he said.

Plants in the solar parks will be built as independent power producers (IPPs) and the BPDB will purchase electricity from such plants, BPDB Chairman ASM Alamgir Kabir said.

He said BPDB will purchase electricity from solar parks at higher prices than those of conventional sources to help diversify the country’s energy sources.

BPDB is currently purchasing electricity from sponsors of diesel-based power plants at around Tk 13-14 per unit (1 bkWh) and furnace oil-burnt power plants at Tk 7.0-8.0 per unit. It is selling electricity at Tk 4.0 per unit.

“We will spend extra money to purchase electricity from solar parks as well, if necessary,” Kabir said.

The government has already set a target to generate 500-MW of electricity from different sources of renewable energy by 2015 from the current level of production at only 55-MW.

At least 200-MW of the targeted electricity production will come from solar photovoltaic alone, the ministry official said.

“Establishing solar parks and supplying electricity output to the national grid will be a new phenomenon in Bangladesh’s renewable energy sector,” Company Secretary of Infrastructure Development Co Ltd (IDCOL) SM Formanul Islam said.

IDCOL, a state-run non-bank financial institution, having 30 partner organizations, is the main lender to domestic renewable energy companies in Bangladesh.

Islam said that a hefty government subsidy bill will be involved to purchase electricity from solar parks.

But it will help encouraging private sector in a big way to get involved in renewable energy businesses and invest in solar parks, he said.

Pointing to technical aspects of smooth operation of solar parks, Islam said that a separate distribution channel will have to be established to supply electricity from there.

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