Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Solar energy to illumine 400 villages

MITHI: The country’s 400 villages, 300 of them in Balochistan and 100 in Sindh, would be electrified through solar energy, Brigadier Dr Naseem A Khan, Secretary, Alternative Energy Development Board and Member (Technical), government of Pakistan, told The News.

“The PC-1 for electrification through solar energy has been approved and an amount of Rs 450 million allocated for the project,” he said. He said the Adviser to the Prime Minister, Dr Mohammad Ali, held a meeting with the district Nazim Arbab Anwer recently and tenders for illuminating Pakistani villages through solar energy were being evaluated.

He said the Asian Development Bank has defended the project on solar energy in the Planning Commission of Pakistan but the funding is being done by the government of Pakistan. “We hope to involve the private sector in a big way,” he added.

The Alternative Energy Development Board in collaboration with the Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation of Tharparkar, has illuminated 109 houses of village Bharmal in Tharparkar though solar energy. The village has a population of 780 people.

“Every house in the village has been electrified through solar energy,” Mohammad Yaseen, an engineer working for the Alternate Energy Development Board told The News in village Bharmal. “Every house can now enjoy the facility of four bulbs, one fan besides a solar cooker,” he said. “The solar cooker works only during the day, directly through the radiation of the sun,” he added.

“Children of the village can now study during the night and women can do their embroidery work,” he said. “The village was short of fuel wood due to drought and was spending Rs 600-800 per month on oil for a home,” he added. He said after the village has been provided solar energy, every family was contributing Rs 100 per month for the maintenance of the project.

“The criteria to choose a village for electrification through solar energy are that it should be 20 kilometres away from the grid and we are collaborating with TRDP that provided us a list of villages in Thar which need solar energy,” he said.

In the wake of high cost of oil, developed as well as the developing countries are vying to meet their needs through solar and other sources of alternative energy. A recent article in SciDev.Net, a prestigious scientific Web paper, quoted two German research reports as saying that deserts in the Middle East and North Africa could generate vast quantities of electricity to sell to Europe.

“The studies found that concentrated solar power plants, occupying less than 0.3 per cent of the desert area in the region, could provide 15 per cent of Europe’s electricity needs by 2050,” the article said.

“The high transmission losses of 10-15 per cent per 1,000 kilometres of cable used would be offset by the sheer volume of electricity produced, said the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation (TREC), a network that helped conduct the studies,” it said.

“Every year, each square kilometre of desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil. Multiplying by the area of deserts worldwide, this is nearly a thousand times the entire current energy consumption of the world,” said Franz Trieb, project manager for the two reports at the German Aerospace Centre.

Solar thermal power plants use mirrors to concentrate solar energy to create steam and generate electricity, creating the cheapest electricity available — costing less than $0.60 per kilowatt-hour.

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