US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena yesterday called upon American Bangladeshis to invest more in the country in a bid to achieve higher economic growth.
“Building of Sonar Bangla is just happening. American Bangladeshis can contribute with ideas and investment,” he said.
Mozena's comments came at the inauguration of US-Bangla joint venture Solaric's new plant.
Solaric is a developer of renewable energy technology and products. The new factory, which spans 10,000 square feet, will make solar optimisers, a key component of solar home systems (SHSs) that increase power voltage.
He said all people in rural areas will get access to electricity by 2021 due to high penetration of SHSs.
“I believe seven years from now nobody will be sitting in the dark.”
Currently, 42 percent of rural population have access to electricity, and reliance on the grid alone will not achieve the government's vision of universal access to electricity by 2021, according to the World Bank.
The programme for installing SHSs in Bangladesh has the fastest penetration rate in the world, with the country installing more than 70,000 such units a month.
As of May, more than 3.1 million SHSs have been installed with support from WB and other development partners, according to Infrastructure Development Company Ltd, the implementing agency. The total installed capacity of the SHSs is around 140 megawatts, sufficient to provide clean electricity to 14 million rural people, Idcol said.
Didar Islam, managing director of Solaric, said he developed the solar optimisers with a handful of Bangladeshi engineers.
The existing SHSs, he said, had limited load capacity, sufficient to run only a fan and a light bulb. “But the solar optimisers now enable people to use anything they want with solar power, in the same way that we use electricity in our homes.”
The device converts 12 volts into 125 volts, the utility level voltage, allowing consumers to use laptops, TVs, fans, light bulbs and most importantly, charge their mobile phones -- a simple task that was not possible with the earlier versions of the system.
“Solar opitmiser is a great innovation for Bangladesh and it will contribute to the society immensely,” said M Golam Mostofa, chief executive of Resource Development Foundation, a non-government organisation.
Kyle F Kelhofer, Bangladesh country manager of International Finance Corporation, said IFC has financed Solaric due to the huge potential of renewable energy.
He also promised to continue to support sustainable private sector development by providing financing and promoting competitiveness of small and medium enterprises.
As of now, Solaric through its partners such as Grameen Shakti, Brac and Palli Daridro Bimochon Foundation have reached 4,000 villages, 65,000 households and business facilities and connected 100,000 people at home and abroad.
In addition to its local operation, Solaric is closely working with foreign partners in many countries such as India, Nepal, Tanzania, Malaysia and Myanmar to export the technologies.
The company, which set up its first factory in Badda in 2011, has 235 employees and the new factory will employ more than 150 people.
Solaric, short for Solar Intercontinental Ltd, is 80 percent owned by Islam and 20 percent by American investment firm SEAF BV. The company last year generated $4.9 million in revenues and is projected to earn $10.5 million this year.