Our solution: Solar power

July 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Pakistan is living through a severe energy crisis. Though it hurts every thing but the worst hit is industry. As energy security and overall development are closely linked, the latter is deteriorating rapidly and will continue to suffer this, if power outage is not addressed. The economy just cannot recover till the demand-supply gap of power is bridged.

Hour after of load shedding and power cuts are a daily routine in Pakistan. Hence foreign and even local investors are reluctant to invest as electricity – the basic necessity of life – is becoming rare. Here it is quite plain that we must also develop some non-conventional sources of energy. We need to pay attention to alternative sources of power such as solar and wind power etc.

The big tragedy is that our leaders (national, provincial and of industrial community) are not doing much on RE sources, and there has been virtually no improvement on this front. Some areas have the potential power generation and their development will benefit the economy and people alike. Solar energy is one such sector which can be developed fast and could help tackle the energy crisis. Solar power is converting sunlight into electricity, either directly by using photovoltaic or indirectly by using sun’s heat for producing steam and running steam turbines.

Both systems can be linked to national or local grids to transmit electricity to individual houses and buildings. Power produced by the two can be stored and integrated with mini grids to ensure its availability even during insufficient solar radiation. Sun’s diameter is 109 times larger than that of earth and its radius is 696,000 km while earth’s radius is only 6,376 km. Sun’s average surface temperature is 5,700C and of earth it is 20C. Amount of solar energy falling on earth’s surface is enormous.

All the energy stored in the natural reserves of coal, oil and gas is no more than sunshine energy of just 20 days. Pakistan’s potential in the matter is excellent. We receive high levels of solar radiation – 1 kw per sq meter all through the year and can be converted to electricity by using PV cells. This power can be used for pumping water, operating fans, TV and telecom systems directly during the day.

Electricity generated in 5-8 hours of sunshine (depending on weather), can also be stored in deep cycle lead acid batteries for use at night. Presently almost 95% of the country’s electricity is generated by hydro and fossil fuel plants. Hydro power stations are less productive in dry months and in winters.

About 70% of our people live in 50,000 villages spread around the country. Because of their distance from grid lines, it is usually not viable to connect many villages to the grid. Solar energy, on the other hand, does not face this obstacle. Many policy makers view solar energy as being expensive. But this applies to capital costs only. There being no fuel consumption, solar electricity is practically free after a couple of years.

In fact, solar energy can be the most effective and least costly solution of our energy woes. Germany has the world’s largest solar system producing 617,000 GWh of electricity from PV panels since 2010. Germany’s total PV production 10 MW comes from 3 locations which have a total of 57,600 PV panels. Our neighbors India and Bangladesh also produce solar power. Bangladesh was producing 26,000 GWh of solar electricity in 2008. Almost half of world’s solar panels are consumed in Japan.

Capital cost of solar panels will come down after we develop a sustainable basis and after the government forms policies to attract investors and entrepreneurs for this industry. Similarly, costs will be lowered to a large extent if we collaborate for technology transfer with countries expert in the matter. Here we need to contact donor agencies to help us develop solar power capability. Strong political will is required for these objectives.

Here we need to keep in mind that the biggest threat to our economic security is non-availability of reliable and continuous power supply.

We are blessed with unlimited sunshine which can easily meet our energy needs during the entire year. Presently, we rely too heavily on consumable fuels. But when we move to solar energy, which is affordable and reliable, sources of electricity will be diversified by. This would not only boost national economy but also be a better solution of energy crisis.

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