First grid integration of solar irrigation pump successful

The government is going to buy surplus electricity generated from the solar irrigation system to increase the use of renewable energy. To this end, a pilot project has already been successfully run at Poradaho in Kustia. Bright Green Energy Foundation (BGEF) implemented the project supported by Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) and UNDP. Solar E. Technology provided technical support of the project.

Official sources said, SREDA has prepared a draft guideline for grid integration of solar irrigation pumps. After finalization of the guideline, the power distribution company will buy excess electricity from solar irrigation systems. As a result the solar irrigation system will be more popular.

When asked, BGEF Chairman, Dipal C Barua told Bangladesh Post “We have successfully implemented the country’s first grid integration of solar irrigation pump of our existing solar irrigation project with a capacity of 24.5 kilowatt (KW) in Kushtia on November 9. We are observing it. If we get support from the government, we will implement the new system in more projects.” Dipal, also President of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association, said it is a good initiative to promote the use of renewable energy. Under this system, both the consumers and the government will be benefited.

“It is not always necessary to irrigate cropland. But the solar system continues to generate electricity in the presence of sunlight. Ultimately, the electricity gets wasted during that time. Therefore, we can use this excess electricity for various purposes to get more commercial benefits of the Solar Irrigation System. However, these pump operators also require support to make the venture commercially viable,” he continued.

Dipal further said, the excess electricity is being added to the national grid of REB. They proposed to buy the electricity from us at bulk rate. But the electricity tariff is not finalised as yet. The project was commissioned by Ahmedul Kabir Upal, Project Engineer of Solar E. Technology. He told Bangladesh Post `We have successfully introduced the new system in the country. It’s a big achievement. Currently, an average, 75 unit (kilowatt per hour) of electricity is being added to the national grid per day from the system. It will be increased in summer.’

Of late, the government has introduced the net-metering policy to buy electricity from the people’s rooftop solar system. Under the system, the people, who use electricity from the grid, can adjust their bills through an exchange arrangement by a special meter. Md Helal Uddin, additional secretary of the Power Division and Chairman of SREDA earlier told Bangladesh Post ‘Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that Bangladesh wants to generate 100 percent electricity from renewable energy by 2050. We have already taken various initiatives to promote renewable energy’.

Power Division officials said solar-based irrigation projects are innovative and environment-friendly solution to the agro-based economy of Bangladesh. The project is gaining popularity day by day. More than one thousand projects have already been taken. The government wants to go for more solar-irrigation projects in an effort to prevent the negative impact on the environment and help the farmers as well.

Solar irrigation systems reduce dependency on fossil fuels and demand for electricity from the national grid during irrigation season. The programme also reduces carbon emission and at the same time saves millions in foreign currency. State-owned Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) has now set a target of installing 50,000 solar irrigation pumps by 2025. Some NGOs and private organisations are installing and supervising the pumps. The World Bank, KfW, GPOBA, JICA, USAID, ADB and BCCRF are supporting this initiative.

Power Division and IDCOL sources said, the government has initiated several initiatives to reduce agricultural costs. Solar Irrigation Pump costs less than one fourth of the cost of diesel pump for irrigation. A solar pump can provide continuous irrigation water for more than 20 years. It’s run by sunlight. So there is no fuel cost. The irrigation cost for 1 bigha land under solar pump is Tk 2,500 to Tk 3,000, which is less than 1,000 to 1,800 taka compared to that of the diesel pump.

According to officials at Sreda, the country currently has around 1.34 million diesel-operated irrigation pumps covering 3.4 million hectares of land. The government is aiming to replace these diesel-operated pumps with solar ones that will ensure 150MW of energy generation from the irrigation sector.

The entrepreneurs have to invest only 15 percent of the total cost of the Solar Irrigation Pump project. The IDCOL provides remaining 85 percent of the project cost. Of this, 50 percent will be provided in grants and 35 percent in simple-term loan at 6 percent interest which will have to be paid in 10 years.