Pakistan has some of the highest values of insolation in the world with eight to nine hours of sunshine per day, ideal climatic conditions for solar power generation. With a population of over 220 million, Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world with an annual estimated population growth rate of 2.07%. The sector of renewable energy, which is now at a nascent stage in Pakistan, holds huge potential for development.
The installed capacity of renewable energy in the Asia-Pacific region will jump from 517 GW in 2020 to 815 GW by 2025. Solar energy will lead this growth, whose regional capacity will nearly double from about 215 GW to 382 GW in the same period.
The country has solar plants in Pakistani Kashmir, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. Initiatives are under development by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Chinese companies, and Pakistani private sector energy companies.
Solar Energy Applications Viable in Pakistan
Seeing Solar Energy Potential in Pakistan, it is envisaged that most of the solar energy applications that are being used around the world are very practical in the country.
Studies conducted by the World Bank and some national agencies in Pakistan suggest that PV power systems become competitive with conventional energy sources for small power applications such as for telecommunication in remote areas. If installed, about 20 MW PV installations will generate an average 32.195 million kWh of energy annually on a 35% annual plant factor. Since the cost of implementing the option is much higher than the benefits available, the implementation of PV option has not met any considerable success over the years. The manufacturing and assembling of plants and equipment would improve the employment level in the country and reduce solar costs.
OFF-GRID APPLICATIONS OF SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC (PV)
Solar Photovoltaic Technologies can be deployed for various off-grid applications as given below:
Solar street lighting
Street lighting shares around 300 MW of total electricity consumption of the country. It is anticipated that this load would reach to around 500MW in coming days due to new installations in planning and design stages. All such load can be shifted to solar energy. Solar Street Lighting Systems powered through Solar PV modules can meet with this load. The development authorities in the country are exploring the opportunities of this shift. Their planning departments are currently working out prospects for making all new installations of street lighting through solar energy applications.
(Bill Board Lighting, Search Lighting, garden lighting etc.)
Commercial lighting load is increasing as the life style of the people is changing. The provincial and city governments are planning to shift all this much load to solar energy. This renders a potential of around 5 MW for solar PV modules in coming days.
Solar Water Pumping
The irrigation system in most of the Arid Agricultural Areas is either dependent upon rain or water pumps. This load accounts for more than 1,000 MW Currently, these pumps are either operated through grid or through diesel generators. The federal and provincial governments are planning to shift this load to solar energy. Efficient solar energy water pumps are available in the market. The companies that are supplying pumps can be contacted for supply of PV modules.
Under Roshan Pakistan Program and Parliamentarian Schemes for Rural Electrification, more than 8,000 villages are going to be electrified through renewable energy technologies. A big share out of which would be done through solar home systems powered through solar PV modules. If 80% out of these are electrified through Solar PV module of 80 W capacity, then this accounts for a total load of around 25 MW in coming days.
Captive Power Generation through Solar PV Application
Government has allowed captive power generation through renewable energies. In this regard, no license or approval from any governmental authority is required. If found economically suitable, then solar PV module can be the best choice for this purpose. It is anticipated that if 100,000 households opt for captive power generation through solar PV modules than this can account for 30 MW requirement for solar PV modules in near future.
ON-GRID APPLICATIONS OF SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC (PV)
As like off-grid applications, Solar Photovoltaic Technologies have definite prospects for various on-grid applications. A few of them are discussed below:
Commercial Power Projects
A huge acreage of land is lying barren in different parts of the country. The areas that are located in most potential areas and where grid is also available, photovoltaic technologies can be deployed for on-grid power generation project. Grid tied power projects of various capacities can be installed in various parts of the country. A few investors are intending to initiate grid tied PV projects of 2 – 5 MW capacity. If one or two successful projects of such capacities are executed, a lot many investors will jump into such projects.
Net Metering Projects
Government of Pakistan allows the opportunity for net metering to the households, commercial and industrial entities. Under such mechanism a small power producer establishes a power producing facility at its premises. The power generated through this facility is sold to the national grid. In the same time the individual acts like the user as well and purchases the power from the grid. At the end of the month, the individual is liable to net meter his actual consumption and total power generation through his facility. The individual is liable to pay or to be paid the difference of amounts calculated through aforesaid mechanisms. The small investors are eyeing at this opportunity and would be looking forward to execute such projects in near future. In fact more than 2 projects are already running on this concept. Solar energy would be having the maximum prospects and would see its maximum market share if this concept got popularized. It is anticipated that through such applications, the PV industry would see an annual requirement of more than 50 MW.
Solar Thermal – Electric
Solar thermal technologies collect the sun’s radiant energy to create a high-temperature at the source that can be converted into electricity via a number of thermodynamic conversion cycles. Though solar thermal generation system is a proven technology in the USA, Germany and France where such systems have been providing electricity to grid systems on a competitive basis with conventional fossil fuel-fired thermal power plants, no solar power plants exist in Pakistan at present. These technologies are currently in the development and demonstration phase in the country.
Solar Building Technologies
Active heating systems provide hot water for space heating with mechanical assistance while passive heating and cooling systems use little or no mechanical assistance and rely rather on the design of the building to achieve specific thermal requirement goals. The application of solar building technologies is assessed to be high in Pakistan. However, the country does not have building regulations, which support the applications of solar building technologies. The Building Energy Code developed by ENERCON includes a chapter on solar technologies but this document is only for voluntary compliance and has not so far been adopted formally by any municipality.
Solar Water Heaters
According to a Household Energy Survey Study (HESS) Project conducted by the Planning Commission in 1991, water heating in the domestic sector is estimated to have consumed about 145,600 TOE of natural gas. Companies in Pakistan manufacture these devices commercially. This amount of energy and corresponding emissions will be saved for every solar water heater that is installed. The initial investment cost of manufacturing solar water heaters will be higher than that of the natural gas and electric water heaters already available in the market. Consumers experience 10-20% higher prices when they choose a solar water heater instead of a conventional water heater. However, by replacing conventional water heaters with solar water heating systems, significant amount of natural gas will be saved annually. The cumulative potential of GHG emission reduction of the solar water heater option has been projected as 4.10 million tons of CO2 by 2020. The saving in emissions will arise from reduced natural gas consumption for water heating in the domestic sector.