The government is looking to use the rooftops of factories and public agencies to generate about 300MW of clean electricity through solar photovoltaics (PV) -- a move that can slash emissions and dependency on fossil fuel.
“We are considering rooftops because of scarcity of land suitable for setting up solar power plants to generate renewable energy -- and we have a lot of rooftops,” said Siddique Zobair, member of the Sustainable & Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda).
The move comes at a time when the government is falling behind its target of generating 10 percent of electricity by renewable energy by 2020. The share of renewable energy is just 2.83 percent, according to Sreda.
Bangladesh’s current power generation capacity is 20,834 MW, with the country remaining heavily dependent on fossil fuels and conventional energy resources to meet its energy demand for a growing economy.
To increase generation of renewable energy, the government signed power purchase agreements with 11 private firms that took initiatives to establish solar parks. But thus far, only two have started operations.
A lack of availability of suitable land has been blamed the most for the sluggish progress, according to officials.
Rooftops of public agencies and plants offer good potential, Zobair said, adding that the Sreda is hoping to generate 300 MW of electricity over the next four years through rooftops.
Germany is one of the big proponents of rooftop solar installation. As of September 2018, total installed capacity of solar systems in Germany is 42,000 MW, of which rooftop solar installation accounts of 71.4 percent.
Australia is another leading country in rooftop solar installation. As of June, the contribution of solar rooftop system is about 43 percent of total installation.
“Industrial rooftops hold huge potential,” said Mahmood Malik, executive director and chief executive of Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Idcol).
Using rooftops of factories 1,000 MW of electricity can easily be generated, he said, adding that the state-owned non-bank financial institution was financing projects for rooftop solar PV for 300 MW.Idcol estimates that generation of 300MW of clean energy would reduce 5.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emission in 20 years.
Until now, three firms that installed solar PV on rooftops have started operation, according to Md Enamul Karim Pavel, head of renewable energy of Idcol.
Idcol has also approved loan applications for five projects for industrial rooftop solar PV to produce more than 7MW of electricity.
Factories setting up rooftop solar PV will be able to consume the generated electricity to meet its own demand and channel the surplus to the national grid, Pavel said.
“Stations, junctions and workshops of railway offer great potential,” he said, citing preliminary estimate that 100 MW of renewable energy could be produced by utilising rooftops of railways.
Sreda Member Zobair said a meeting took place among top officials of railway ministry, power division and other stakeholders on the issue and the railway ministry suggested piloting rooftop solar PV in two stations.
Bangladesh Railway (BR) last week requested German state-owned development bank KfW that finances investments for energy efficiency and renewable energy in Bangladesh to run feasibility study for installation of rooftop solar PV on its infrastructure, officials said.
“We have no problem if electricity is generated by installing solar panels on rooftops keeping our operation uninterrupted,” said Mofazzal Hossain, rail secretary.
He said they asked for Idcol and others for piloting at stations in Gopalganj-Kashiani section to assess the potential of solar electricity. “If the pilot project is successful, we can consider it on a large scale.”
BR is a big consumer of electricity and it can install solar panels on its own and can supply additional electricity to the grid. Rooftops of major railway stations and junctions have potential to produce 45 MW of electricity. Workshops and small stations have potential to generate the rest, according to Idcol. It may require investment of Tk 700 crore to install rooftop solar PV at railway and Idcol is keen to provide financing, Pavel said. Solar energy accounts for 60 percent of total installed renewable energy of 589 MW, according to Sreda.