Untapped potential

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    KATHMANDU, OCT 08 – At a time when the country is reeling under a power crisis that is likely to shoot up to as high as 16 hours a day in the winter, Nepal successfully added the electricity generated from the country’s first-ever solar project to the national grid on September 28.

    Sundarighat Solar Plant from Google Earth
    Sundarighat Solar Plant from Google Earth

    A Power Purchase Agreement was signed between the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and the Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Management Board (KVWSMB) to purchase the electricity generated from the 680-KW solar plant at Sundarighat, Lalitpur. Solar power generated from this project, constructed with the grant aid of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), is being utilised by Kathmandu Upatyaka Khane Pani Limited (KUKL) for water pumping and the remaining electricity is connected to the national grid. A clean energy project like this that promotes the photovoltaic (PV) system is seen as an attempt towards the development of renewable energy sources—solar and wind.
    Studies say Nepal is endowed with huge clean energy and hydropower potential. Despite having such an enormous potential, the government still lags behind in rural electrification.
    A study by the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) shows that around 3,000 MW of electricity can be produced from wind only from the 10 km area on both the sides of the existing national grid. Nepal receives solar radiation ranging from 3.6 to 5.9 kWh/m2 per day and the sun shines for about 300 days a year, clearly suggesting that the country has immense potential of PV energy that, if tapped, can mitigate ever-increasing power crisis.
    Although the first rural electrification through solar PV system—mini grid type—in Nepal was installed in 1989, the solar energy sector has made  impressive strides  after the commencement of the Energy Sector Assistance Programme (ESAP) in 1999 with the assistance of the Danish International Development Agency (Danida). Since then, solar energy has been a key player in disseminating Solar Home Systems (SHS) adopting subsidised vendor sales model for rural electrification in Nepal.
    Some 300,000 household solar home systems and 500 institutional solar PV systems have been installed through vendor sales subsidised model. Similarly, some 500,000 households have solar installations from the private sector, which has been increasing at the rate of 20 percent every year. Even the private sector get indirect subsidy in the form of VAT and tax exemption while importing solar materials. With the advancement of technology, per watt cost of solar energy has come down to US$ 2 from $8.
    Dhital said that around 2,100 MW solar can be generated just from both the sides of the existing national grid, while the total installation capacity is hundreds of megawatt.
    However, just around 16 MW, 8 through rural electrification and remaining by the private sector, has been generated so far. “There has not been large scale production so far. We are planning to start producing solar power from the President’s office, Singha Durbar and Central Library in this fiscal year,” he added.
    Though the history of wind energy in Nepal dates back to 1985 when a 10 KW wind turbine generator was installed at Kagbeni in Mustang district, very little efforts have been made to tap solar and wind potential. In the last 27 years since the first wind power station was installed in the country, only around 100 KW of wind energy has been generated.
    According to Govinda Pokharel, AEPC executive director, the places potential for wind energy across the country have already been mapped. “One important thing is that wind
    and hydro can complement each other and an equal supply of energy is possible if these two are synchronised,” he said. Wind is high and water level is low during the dry season and vice versa during the monsoon.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post (BINOD GHIMIRE)