Rooftop solar projects beam through pandemic haze
Like any other business, new clean energy ventures are facing disruptions to their tempo for the Covid-19 pandemic. Among them are rooftop-based solar projects focusing factory buildings. Yet some entrepreneurs pushed on with their projects even after the rogue virus brought businesses to their knees.
Paragon Poultry is one of those firms. The leading poultry breeder implemented three new rooftop solar projects of 750 kW during the pandemic to reduce cost and harness other benefits such as a reduction of temperature inside factory premises.
"Initially, the Covid-19 situation was a challenge for us. Later, we were able to overcome that," said Md Moshiur Rahman, managing director of Paragaon Group, which also runs feed and frozen snacks businesses.
Paragon said it launched its first rooftop project of 723 kWp capacity in February 2018 and installed the second one in February this year.
Based on the experience, it found that there are a number of direct and indirect benefits of generating power using the otherwise unused space on factory roofs.
"It has a number of direct and indirect benefits. It generates one taka benefit for per watt of electricity compared to electricity bought from public electricity providers," said Rahman.
"We can sell excess electricity to the government too. Apart from the cash benefits, one of the biggest advantages is a reduction in house temperature," he said, citing that it was in the range of 3 to 4 degrees.
He said rooftop solar projects were very effective, particularly for poultry farms.
"Solar energy has an important role in carbon footprint, to reduce CO2 and helps to create a natural green environment," said the top executive of Paragon, whose rooftop-based solar panels have a power generation capacity of over 1.5 MW.
The group also operates a 10 MW of solar power plant and a solar mini-grid.
Until now, solar projects of 15 MW have been installed on the rooftops of public and private organisations, said Mohammad Alauddin, chairman of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda).
"It is a good business case for industrial and commercial consumers as per unit cost of electricity for solar now stands at around Tk 3 whereas cost of electricity for industrial consumers goes up to Tk 10 per unit," he said.
"We are planning to hold a workshop with industries to inform them about cost reduction," he added.
Alauddin said the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has affected all walks of life, including renewable energy ventures.
Rooftop-based solar projects have opened a new avenue of opportunities along with solar power plants, solar irrigation and solar mini-grids.
This is because the scope to further spread the use of solar home systems have narrowed as an inverse effect of the expansion of the national grid to reach electricity to almost all parts of the country.
Solar projects deliver 415 MW of the 650 MW of renewable energy that contributes nearly three per cent to the country's electricity generation capacity of 22,214 MW, according to Sreda data.
Activities of rooftop-based solar projects started gaining pace since last month as economic activities revived, said Nasir Ahmed, director and chief technology officer of solar power solutions provider Solaric.
"Industries had come to a halt because of Covid induced disruption. Now, rooftop-based solar projects are picking up," he said, adding that Solaric implemented a rooftop-based solar project of 244 KW for AKH Group during the ongoing pandemic.
Garment manufacturer Comfit Composite Knit plans to execute a 2 MW solar project on its factory rooftops to meet a portion of its requirement, said Hasan Imam Siddiki, head of its corporate finance.
Equipment has been already bought to first materialise a 300 KW solar project at a factory in Mirzapur, Tangail, he said.
The outbreak of the coronavirus disease has slowed the installation process. "We could have been done by this time and entered the second phase," added Siddiki.
The Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Idcol), one of the major financiers of renewable energy schemes in Bangladesh, is not pushing borrowers to go fast owing to the pandemic-induced business and fund crunch, said its executive director and CEO, Mahmood Malik.
Idcol has so far approved nearly Tk 162 crore-worth loans for 26 rooftop projects having a combined capacity of 31 MW. Of those, nine of 9.6MW capacity have already been realised by entrepreneurs, according to the financial institution.
Rooftop based projects gained pace before the pandemic, said Idcol's Head of Renewable Energy Md Enamul Karim Pavel.
And the positive side is that firms which had to suspend work temporarily now want to resume work, he said.
"We are also getting applications for new projects," said Pavel.