Valley boasts 200-MW solar power potential

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    Solar Power SystemKATHMANDU: The Nepal Electricity Authority does have the opportunity to make hay while the sun shines, but it has to encourage the Valley denizens to harness solar energy, according to experts.
    They say rooftops of the city receive enough sunshine — almost 10 hours a day even during the winter — to generate about 200 MW of electricity if all the 200,000 households in the city centres of the Kathmandu Valley install solar panels. Generating 200 MW of electricity through solar panels can be a big relief for a power-starved country like Nepal which is witnessing almost 14 hours of outage a day.

    A campaign for urban houses in the Valley to install grid-tied solar panels at subsidised rates can be a good option rather than expensive and imported diesel plants which are usually a hot topic for discussion at the policy level, especially during the dry season. Diesel plants are expensive by themselves and electricity generated by them is even dearer — Rs 32 per unit. On the other hand, solar electricity can be availed at almost half the price, Rs 15 per unit, but this option does not seem to in government’s priority.

    A three-month 1-KW solar electricity to the NEA grid from a solar panel in Pulchowk Engineering Campus has proved to be successful. The project was commissioned with the support from a Swiss university. Similar 1-KW power panels on each rooftop of 200,000 households can feed the NEA grid roughly about 200 MW.

    “But for this NEA has to install inverter to synchronise the power with its grid, and the government should provide certain subsidy to solar consumers,” says Govind Raj Pokharel, Executive Director, Alternative Energy Promotion Center, a state-owned entity.

    Generation of 200 MW of electricity can also significantly slash the annual diesel import of Rs 20 billion — spent by private companies to operate their captive plants.

    “The connection of solar electricity can help cut down load-shedding hours significantly during the day time and save the waters in Kulekhani, the only reservoir plant, Kaligandaki A, a semi-reservoir plant, and Middle Marshyangdi for meeting the peak hour demand in the evening,” says Bhuwan Kumar Chhetri, Chief of NEA’s Load Dispatch Centre.

    Ajaya Bhattarai, who is involved with the Pulchowk Engineering Campus’ 1-KW solar power project, however, says it costs about Rs 1 lakh for 1-KW solar panels and Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh for an inverter.

    Pokharel says setting up net metering system — that records power supplied to the households from NEA grid and vice versa — can maintain a balance between sell and purchase.

    “If a household sells more energy than it consumes then the households can even earn money to recover the investment,” says Pokharel.

    NEA’s policy of not purchasing below 100 KW of electricity from solar panels, however, can be a hurdle.

    NEA Spokesperson Sher Singh Bhat says the electricity utility could consider changing the existing policy but points that solar undertaking could be costly for households.

    Senior Engineer at the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction, Sagar Krishna Joshi, says urban households will be ready to install solar panels but the the government must come up with plans and policies to give subsidies.

    However, Rajeswar Man Sulpya, General Manager of NEA’s Transmission and System Operation, says the idea is impractical in view of high demand of energy.

    “We cannot afford expensive solar energy,” says Sulpya. “We need to focus on hydro projects which are cheaper than any other means of electricity.”

    Source : The Himalayan Times