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Solar Energy in Bangladesh
Solar energy in Bangladesh is becoming more and more mainstream. In a country reliant on fossil fuels to produce most of its energy, solar grids and solar-powered water pumps are helping farmers save money and economy to develop in the right way.

Bangladesh Energy Sector

Bangladesh primarily uses fossil fuels to constitute their energy sector. Natural gas accounts for 75 percent of primary commercial energy supply. The country has become increasingly more dependent on natural gas. Natural gas consumption has increased by 300 percent between 1992 and 2012.

Bangladesh also relies heavily on oil, using primarily refined and unrefined petroleum fuels. About 45 percent of the country’s total oil consumption is consumed in the transportation sector and 21 percent is used for irrigation.

The total yearly production of power in the country is 423 megawatts. Out of this number, renewable energy sources only make up 3.5 percent of total energy production.

The country’s renewable energy policy aimed to achieve the situation in which 5 percent of the energy produced yearly would come from renewable energy sources by 2015. Only 3.5 percent of the energy produced in 2015 came from renewables. The country set up a new goal and plans to generate at least 10 percent of renewable electricity in 2020.

Solar Energy in Bangladesh

As of 2017, Bangladesh has the world’s largest Solar Home System (SHS), with about 5 million SHS in the country. The organization leading the charge in developing this technology is Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), which has been developing SHS technology for Bangladesh since 2003.

The organization has been producing an estimated 65,000 SHSs per month. Since Bangladesh adopted SHS in 1996, over 30 million people have directly benefited from solar energy, resulting in 100,000 new jobs being created. Bangladesh has over 300 days of sunlight a year, making it a prime destination for solar technology.

Bangladesh has also been investing in solar irrigation pumps. The country plans on replacing the 1.3 million irrigation pumps currently running on diesel with solar, with 617 already been installed as of 2017. It is estimated that replacing all of the diesel water pumps will generate 10,000 megawatts of solar energy.

Improvements in Solar Energy

In 2015, SkyPower announced they would be investing $4.3 billion in utility-scale solar energy over the next five years. Over those five years, the company will also be gifting 1.5 million SkyPower Home solar kits to people living in Bangladesh. The Chief Commercial Officer of Skypower said that the investment will create more than 42,000 total job years and 500 MW of fabrication and assembly facilities.

It was announced in July 2017 that the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) planned to develop a solar power zone in the Chandpur district, with the target of generating at least 1,000 megawatts of electricity. The plan will be implemented on approximately 4,000 acres of land that will be the country’s largest hub for solar power.

The BEZA chief said in an interview with the Dhaka Tribune that a major percentage of the electricity generated through this would be supplied to the national grid to help meet the growing demand for electricity.

Bangladesh currently produces 1,379 megawatts of electricity, and the government aims to generate 24,000 megawatts of power by 2021 and 60,000 megawatts by 2041.

Solar energy in Bangladesh is being developed at a rapid rate and will continue to constitute more of the country’s energy production. With year-round sunshine and cost-efficiency in mind, solar power is the answer to this country’s energy needs.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Solar Irrigation in Bangladesh
Agriculture is an essential part of the Bangladesh economy. It makes up 14 percent of the GDP, and over 42 percent of the labor force in Bangladesh is involved in agriculture. The income of almost 90 percent of the population living in rural areas is dependent on agriculture.

Bangladesh has seen excellent improvement in agriculture within the past four decades, which has led to a decrease in food insecurity. However, 24.3 percent of the population was still living below the poverty line in 2016. In addition to the high rate of poverty in Bangladesh, there are many rural areas that do not have access to reliable electricity, making electric irrigation pumps difficult to use. Implementing solar irrigation in Bangladesh is providing a solution to these problems.

Irrigation Methods in India

Irrigation is an essential aspect of the agriculture industry. The transportation of water to crops is incredibly important in terms of crop yield, and the timing of the watering is crucial for many crops. The main methods of irrigation used in Bangladesh include diesel fueled irrigation and electricity fueled irrigation. However, these methods are not cost effective. Diesel fuel is expensive, difficult to transport and prone to pollution. Electric irrigation, though less harmful for the environment, is also inconsistent since it is prone to outages and not available in all areas.

A newer method of irrigation that is more reliable and cost-effective is known as solar irrigation. The use of solar irrigation in Bangladesh has been on the rise in the past few years. Solar pumps can cover several farms, and they reduce the time farmers spend ensuring that the irrigation is functioning properly when watering their fields.

Solar irrigation cuts the costs of electricity for farmers and improves their quality of life through the reduction of pollution and the increase in time that can now be spent more effectively. Solar irrigation is especially suited to Bangladesh because of the flat terrain and the high levels of sunlight throughout the country.

Funding Solar Irrigation in India

While solar irrigation in Bangladesh is a vast improvement for the agriculture industry, it is expensive to develop and put into place. This year, the Bangladesh government will receive a $20 million loan from The Asian Development Bank as part of a Power Efficiency Improvement Project as well as grant money in order to help continue their growth in solar irrigation.

This loan and grant money will help put into place over 2,000 solar-powered pumps and create off-grid solar photovoltaic (SPV) pumping, which will allow irrigation in areas where there is less access to electricity and will help replace diesel pumps, which are more difficult to maintain.

In addition to the aid from The Asian Development Bank, The World Bank is helping Bangladesh through a finance agreement that will provide $55 million in funding for the growth of renewable energy. This agreement includes supporting the creation of 1,000 solar irrigation pumps along with 30 solar mini-grids that will also greatly improve the agriculture industry by reducing carbon emissions from using diesel-fueled irrigation pumps.

The Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), an organization that was launched in 1997, is working towards financing infrastructure and renewable energy in Bangladesh. This year, 923 of the 1,024 solar irrigation pumps that have been approved by The IDCOL are already operational. The IDCOL has set a goal of installing 50,000 solar-powered irrigation pumps within the next seven years. Through the support of organizations like The Asian Development Bank and The World Bank, this goal is well underway.

Solar Irrigation Will Decrease Poverty and Help the Environment

Currently, 14 percent of the population of Bangladesh is covered by the country’s solar power program. Renewable energy is a growing part of Bangladesh, and the solar irrigation pumps that are being built will go a long way towards establishing environmentally friendly agriculture methods that will benefit people across the country.

By reducing the costs of farming, these solar power irrigation pumps will reduce poverty and increase the quality of life in Bangladesh. In fact, the vast majority of poverty reduction that occurred in the five years leading up to 2010 was spurred on by such improvements in agriculture. Solar irrigation in Bangladesh offers a new way to help the environment and change the lives of people living in Bangladesh for the better.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr