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Dhaka Tribune


Bangladesh entering the gigawatt club

Very few solar plants across the world produce more than 1,000MW from a single unit

Update : 24 Dec 2022, 02:11 AM

For the first time since the country introduced solar systems in 1996, Bangladesh has received several proposals from foreign and local private firms willing to set up 1,000MW solar power plants – thanks to the government's timely steps to shift to clean energy in phases.

According to several highly-placed officials asking not to be named, the government received at least three such proposals seeking unsolicited bids to implement the projects, each of which may need an investment of over Tk15,000 crore or over $1.5 billion and vast land.

The proposed locations are Zajira in Shariatpur, Saral of Banshkhali in Chittagong and Swarna Dwip (formerly Jahazzair Char) in Noakhali.

There are very few solar plants across the world producing more than 1,000MW from a single unit – with China, India and the UAE leading the race, and are working to expand the capacity to 5,000-10,000MW in the next few years.

On the other hand, Bangladesh gets around 230MW of electricity from eight grid-tied solar plants.

Shariatpur district on the southern side of the Padma Bridge does not have any power plants. On the other hand, Swarna Dwip island still has vast land suitable for installing solar panels. 

Banshkhali will see its first mega power plant, two coal-fired units each with a capacity of 660MW, go into operation this year. If approved, the 1,000MW solar plant will be set up at Saral Union of the upazila.

Bangladesh Army's 33rd Infantry Division has been in charge of the 370sq-km island since 2013 and has been implementing different development projects alongside setting up a base for exercises. 

Also Read: How Bangladesh can benefit from Japan's super grid

In February this year, the US-based Pacific Energy Group, LLC (Pacific Energy), through its subsidiary Eleris Energy Limited, Hong Kong, signed a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with the Bangladesh Army Welfare Trust, on building the plant. 

Of the 11 other proposals currently being reviewed by the government, Sreemangal in Moulvibazar has been proposed for a 300MW plant, Mongla in Bagerhat for 200MW, and Gaibandha and Thakurgaon for two 200MW plants.

The other plants have an estimated capacity of 10-70MW, several senior officials concerned told Dhaka Tribune.

Bright future

The contribution of solar energy to the national grid is negligible – around 1% of total daily generation of around 12,000-14,000MW. In FY2017-22, generation by solar plants increased marginally – from 38MW in 2020 to 230MW in 2022.

In the last couple of years, many local and foreign investors have expressed interest in setting up large-scale solar plants. During this time, eight solar parks have been established and these are now adding around 230MW to the national grid every day.

The government has already cancelled at least 10 coal-power projects of more than 8,000MW capacity to meet the country's climate change commitments.

Bangladesh now produces over 890MW from renewable sources – a meagre 2.9MW from wind energy, 230MW from the country's lone hydropower plant at Kaptai in Rangamati and the rest from solar parks. 

The country's largest grid-tied solar power plant, producing around 100MW of electricity in Mongla of Bagerhat, came into operation in December last year.

The 3.28MW plant at Sarishabari in Jamalpur is the country's first grid-tied solar power facility that came into commercial operation in 2017.

The other key players operating solar parks are the consortiums of HETAT-DITROLIC and IFDC Solar (50MW in Mymensingh), Spectra Engineers Limited and Shunfeng Investment Limited (35MW in Manikganj); Joules Power Limited (20MW in Cox's Bazar), and Parasol Energy Ltd (8MW in Panchagarh).

Since 1996, the number of Solar Home Systems (SHS) units has now reached a whopping 6,037,601-mark. Meanwhile, the off-grid generation of electricity from SHS, irrigation and rooftop units, street lights and solar-powered telecom BTS amounts to 351MW, according to the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda).

There are some 2,592 solar irrigation units producing 48.14MW; some 296,861 street lights with a capacity of 17.07MW; 115 rooftop units (except for net metering) of 14.20MW and 1,933 solar-powered telecom BTS generating 8.06MW.

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