Solar irrigation pump: One step closer to food and energy security

Published : 25 Apr 2023 08:40 PM
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Bangladesh currently has a 169.4 million population, and by 2041 that number will be close to 200 million. Despite contributing less than 0.47% of the world's emissions, Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable nations. Bangladesh is not the cause of global warming, but the country is affected by it. Global warming causes climate change, which increases the frequency of extreme weather that is particularly harmful to crop production. Crop output in several areas of Bangladesh has already been impacted by variations in temperature and rainfall. The intensity of salinity intrusion into farmlands in the coastal areas is growing due to the rise in the sea level. In addition, climate change results in both heavy and irregular rainfall, and in recent years, both the intensity and frequency of floods and flash floods have increased. Farmers must use adaptation techniques to lessen the impact of climate change to keep agriculture production expanding in the face of this major issue.

Bangladesh's adoption of solar energy has been hailed as a success story around the globe. Our country now has the largest off-grid renewable energy network in the world. The Solar Home System (SHS) has served as a shining example of success in renewable energy (RE). Back in 1996, Mr. Dipal C. Barua, Founding Chairman and CEO of Bright Green Energy Foundation (BGEF), and former Founding Managing Director of Grameen Shakti introduced an innovative monthly installment-based financial model at the price of kerosene which opened the door for Solar Home Systems (SHS). By following the path of this financial model, over 6.5 million SHS has been installed all over Bangladesh till now. Around 15% people of Bangladesh are enjoying modern Electricity from Solar Energy. The monthly installment-based financial model was adopted by World Bank later JICA, ADB, KfW, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), UNDP, DFID, and GIZ started supporting the Solar Program in Bangladesh.Having a solid foundation in the power and energy sector, the government’s next target is to achieve 40 percent electricity from clean energy by 2041 when Bangladesh aspires to become a prosperous developed nation.

Solar-based irrigation systems can be an innovative and environment-friendly solution to mitigate the influence of climate change for saving the agro-based economy of Bangladesh. About 11.63% of GDP comes from agriculture in our country and over 1.3 million diesel-operated pumps are currently running in the fields. On the other hand, 2873 no Solar Irrigation Pumps (SIPs) have been installed generating around 53.85 MW of electricity and this system has the possibility of generating upto 6,500 MW for solar irrigation which will replace the use of diesel pumps in rural areas. Each Solar irrigation pump replaces a total of five shallow pumps and potentially over 1.3 million shallow pumps can be easily replaced by approximately 260,000 Solar Irrigation Pumps by 2030 which will generate up to 6,500 MW of electricity by preventing 20.8 million carbon emissions.  Solar irrigation systems reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the need for electricity from the national grid in irrigation seasons.Additionally, it reduces carbon emissions while also saving millions of dollars in foreign exchange, and offers farmers less expensive irrigation services in comparison to pumps powered by diesel. Moreover, the installment of solar PV-based irrigation systems has the potential to increase food production by including areas where there are possibilities to produce three types of crops throughout the year while staying safe from flooding, arsenic contamination, and saline water.

For expanding solar irrigation systems, a complete financial and technological package should be provided to the farmersto increase the growth and variety of crops. Alternative financing organizations for SIP programs, short-termbank loan facilities with a low-interest rate, agricultural accessories, machinery at affordable prices, training facilities, and proper marketing facilities for the farmers to get a fair price for different crops have to be ensured. Moreover, clustering the adjacent pumps can give huge support to the Grid while discouraging new connections of fossil fuel-based electricity. Bright Green Energy Foundation (BGEF)has successfully piloted the Nation’s First Grid Integration of Solar Irrigation Pumping Systems at Kustia which has already transmitted over 18 MWh of energy to the National Grid. 100 % use of every cultivable land will help to achieve food security and energy security in the country. It will create opportunities for the diversification of different crops, vegetables, and plants as well as generate more green jobs for women and the young generation.

Finally, we can conclude that the farmers and the nation will be benefited from Solar Irrigation Systems by

• 40-50% Less Irrigation Cost

• Increases the Cultivating Land Area

• Increases the growth and variety of crops

• Increases the Financial and Social Mobilization in the farmer’s society

• Ensures the Food and Energy Security 

• Prevents the loss of 50% to 60% of energy by Grid Integration

Bangladesh has already signed the historic Paris Climate Agreement, which is a global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius this century. We are hoping to implement the ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan’ – a journey from climate vulnerability to resilience to climate prosperity by ensuring the use of renewable energy in every possible aspect.The 100% replacement of diesel pumps with Solar Irrigation Pumps (SIPs) could be one step closer to our target. 

Dipal C. Barua is the Founder & Chairman, Bright Green Energy Foundation (BGEF)