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Solar-powered irrigation pumps getting popular

Published : 28 Nov 2021 10:30 PM | Updated : 29 Nov 2021 01:26 PM

In a bid to gradually reduce dependency on diesel, the government has been encouraging installation of solar power irrigation pumps for more than a decade.

Due to such a policy of adopting green energy Bangladesh has already installed Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) has installed 1619, Barendra Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) has installed 661, BADC has installed 29 and other organizations together installed 10 which produce around 49 MW (Megawatt). It will reduce around 470,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. 

SREDA officials said that 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.

IDCOL has now set a target of installing 10,000 solar irrigation pumps by 2027. On the other hand, Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) plans to sell 2,000 environment-friendly solar irrigation pumps to marginal farmers, which is now at implementation stages. Some other organizations are also working to install solar irrigation system. 

BREB will be selling the pumps at 70 percent price of the project cost, and under a 10-year installment facility. Females and those farmers keen to refrain from using diesel-based pumps, will get priority.

As per a report of the World Bank, solar irrigation pumps have improved the quality of life of farmers in Bangladesh, and they now have more time to concentrate on other productive purposes. With the extra money that the pumps have saved, many are buying other farming equipment, cattle and many more.

Power Division and IDCOL sources said, 43 percent of the cost of agriculture is spent on irrigation. Solar irrigation pumps will need less than one-fourth the cost needed for diesel pumps. Besides, it can also prevent soil and environmental damage. The government has started several initiatives to reduce agricultural costs. A solar pump can provide continuous irrigation water for 20-25 years. It’s run by sunlight. There is no fuel cost. 

SREDA has also issued a guideline of grid integration to promote solar irrigation pumps.  

According to the guideline, the owners of solar irrigation projects could opt to sell the excess amount of electricity they produce from their solar irrigation systems. Power Distribution Company will pay the owners at a bulk rate of Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) tariff. 

However, a pilot project has already been successfully run at Poradaho in Kushtia district. Bright Green Energy Foundation (BGEF) implemented the project supported by SREDA and UNDP.

Dipal Chandra Barua, President of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association (BSREA) told Bangladesh Post, “There are more than 16 lakh irrigation pumps in Bangladesh out of which 13 lakh pumps (shallow) are operated by diesel. We can easily convert it to solar pump. As a result, the number of diesel imports will come down a lot, which will save foreign currency. Besides, the use of fossil fuel in the country will decline.”

Dipal, also Chairmen of BGEF said, “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. So far, around 16,600 units of electricity has already been supplied to the grid.”

According to a study by research institute BIDS (Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies),  the cost of electricity in a diesel-powered irrigation pump stands at Tk 47.18 per unit whereas the same amount of power from the grid costs an irrigation pump only Tk 4. 

BREB official said that electricity is needed to run the electric powered pumps. The government is giving subsidies of Taka 75 to 80 crore on diesel for irrigation. Still, during the agricultural season, diesel deficit is artificially created, which leads to soaring price of diesel locally.

On the other hand, 310 lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted annually due to diesel-powered pumps. The solar irrigation pump will save electricity and diesel costs in addition to protecting the environment.

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