A stride in solar panel manufacturing

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Green Tech
A stride in solar panel manufacturing

A 3D model of the solar panel manufacturing plant in Ashulia, Dhaka. Photo: RAHIMAFROOZ

Suman Saha

Rahimafrooz Renewable Energy Ltd (RREL) is set to manufacturer solar panels in the country by next month, to tap growing demand for green energy at home and abroad.

The company has already set up a plant in Ashulia in Dhaka to manufacture 18MW PV (photovoltaic) solar panels a year with technical assistance from Spire Corporation, a US-based solar company.

“We plan to start operations at a cost of Tk 40 crore in December on a commercial basis,” says Munawar Misbah Moin, managing director of RREL.

He says the 20,000 square feet plant is being implementing under the refinancing scheme of Bangladesh Bank’s green fund.

The central bank earlier formed a revolving fund of Tk 200 crore to encourage banks and financial institutions to extend low-cost loans for the fast expansion of green energy.

The company is financing Tk 10 crore and Eastern Bank Ltd is providing the rest under the refinancing scheme.

Moin, who is also a group director of Rahimafrooz, says the locally manufactured panels would be cost-effective and spur expansion of the sector.

More than 1 million solar home systems (SHSs) have been installed so far in different parts of the country and another 1.5 million will be installed by 2014 under IDCOL financing, adds Moin.

He says currently, the annual demand for solar panels is worth nearly 25 MW in Bangladesh.

A total of five other companies also plan to produce solar panels locally with a total capacity of 62 MW.

“We also hope to export solar panels,” says Moin. The company plans to export 50 percent of the production of the plant in the next three years.

About 60 percent of the cost of a SHS is the panel, which is imported from India, China and Japan, say industry insiders.

The chief of the company says the locally produced panels will reduce the cost of each SHS by 5-7 percent. The cost of a locally produced panel is 10 percent lower than imported ones.

Bangladesh is self-reliant in all the accessories needed in solar housing systems, including batteries and wires, except solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity.

The move to build the plant comes as solar power is trying to make an entry into the rural areas left untouched by the national electricity grid.

RREL, a concern of Rahimafrooz Group with annual sales of around Tk 1800 crore, ventures into solar panel assembly as the government focuses on increasing renewable energy not only for the off-grid areas but also for public and semi-government offices under the grid network.

Earlier, the government set a target to meet 5 percent of the country’s total power demand by 2015 and 10 percent by 2020 through green energy.

According to RREL, the plant will help reduce carbon emission by more than 1 million tonnes, generating carbon credit worth $15 million.

suman.saha@thedailystar.net

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