It’s time to focus on wind and solar energy
Greater availability of energy promotes economic development and facilitates, meeting diverse needs associated with the manufacturing industry, agriculture, and also in providing a better lifestyle for citizens.
These factors lead countries to seek additional energy from hydrocarbons -- coal, oil, and natural gas. However, such dynamics leads to the general assumption that greater use of hydrocarbons and fossil fuels is contributing to the heating of our atmosphere. Subsequently leading to climate variability.
This has led the world to seek alternatives through the creation and use of renewable energy -- in the form of solar energy, biogas, biofuel, and wind energy.
The functional approach regarding global warming has also led to the recognition that, Bangladesh will be one of the most severely affected parts of the world. This has also underlined the need for our relevant authorities to undertake necessary measures that will assist in efforts directed towards adaptation and mitigation.
The civil society has also been monitoring not only how the rest of the world is taking necessary measures but how Bangladesh can play a more interactive role within the paradigm of the evolving efforts envisioned through the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The urgency in this regard has also grown because of the upcoming 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) that will be held in Katowice, Poland in the first two weeks of December this year. COP24, according to environmentalists is being considered as particularly important because the concerned countries are expected to finalize the rule book for implementing the different articles of the Paris Agreement. This aspect has led scientists to describe this meeting as a pivotal one at a pivotal time.
The Bangladesh government, as well as all relevant agencies, has been taking steps to enhance our profile in the use of renewable energy in different forms throughout the country. This has been particularly true in the case of our rural regions. Solar power through the use of solar panels has now become part of the functional matrix in these areas.
Recent estimates have mentioned that solar panels are now being used in more than three million homes. This is facilitating students to continue their studies after evening, helping families, and helping to recharge mobile phones.
Lately, solar panels are also being increasingly used for generating the required power for water pumps necessary for lifting underground water for the purpose of irrigation. Solar panels are also being used in villages to generate power to recharge conveyances that run on batteries. In addition, there is a growing awareness and use of biogas as biofuel in rural kitchens.
These factors are contributing towards socio-economic growth in our economy. It is this awareness that has persuaded our government to try and boost the use of solar power not only in the rural, but also in the urban areas.
Measures are being taken to boost solar power so that its contribution to the energy platform exceeds 10% of the total power generation capacity by 2021. The government has recently approved 19 on-grid solar power parks.
Our power division has been helpful for the completion of the necessary steps. However, they have also pointed out that they and the private sector are facing one big challenge -- acquiring land being used for cultivation and agricultural purposes. They have drawn attention to the fact that a solar project with a power generation capacity of 100MW needs about 300 acres of land.
Nevertheless, it is being felt that the efficiency in generating solar power will increase in the future through new technological advances. No discussion on the use of renewable energy will be complete without reference to the potential use of wind power to generate energy. This is particularly true in the case of Bangladesh.
A recent study carried out by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has indicated that the coastal belt of Bangladesh holds wind power prospects. A comprehensive wind mapping exercise has demonstrated that the average wind flow in nine places is between 5.0 to 6.0 metres per second. This was good news for Bangladesh as, for commercial production; one needs a wind speed of between 2.3 to 2.5 metres per second.
The US study carried out on behalf of the Power Division has found that the coastal areas of Khulna, Barisal, and Chittagong divisions have more than six meters per second available wind speed at the 120-metre height -- sufficient for generating electricity from wind turbines.
At present, only three wind turbines with 3MW capacities have been in operation for the last few years in coastal Kutubdia. The wind turbine in Feni, has so far generated 588,334KW hours of electricity since resuming operations after repairs in April 2014.
The Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority has already formed a working committee in this regard. Steps are also being undertaken to set up three towers to collect site-specific data in different coastal areas including Kuakata and Patuakhali. At the same time, another committee has been formed to conduct an in-house feasibility study on the wind energy potential in Mongla and Chandpur based on the US report.
These aspects indicate that we have several challenges ahead of us. However, all those who participated in the study agree that we have wind energy potential. That is the most important dimension. Now, we should be able to move forward to further our strategic interests and overcome our energy challenges.
It also needs to be remembered that future steps in this regard will require bipartisan participation between the public and the private sectors. We are all presently focusing on LNG as the future mainstay to meet our domestic demand for energy.
After this study, we should also encourage international financial institutions to help Bangladesh address this issue. We have to work together and try to gain from the experience already obtained by Germany, Canada, China, and other countries.
Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]