Solar power plant being installed at Parliament House

Solar power plant being installed at Parliament House

ISLAMABAD: A 1.8 megawatt solar power plant is being installed at the Parliament House building.

The Chinese-funded solar panels would help save $1 million in annual energy bills, reports The Guardian newspaper.

The initial cost of the project – which is being funded by the Chinese government as a friendship gesture – is estimated at $60 million.

This is the first project of its kind – for a public building – in Pakistan, and later more public buildings would be converted to solar power to overcome the energy crisis.

China recently helped Punjab set up a solar park on over 10,000 acres with potential to generate 1,000MW of power.

Meanwhile, some experts hope that the high-profile example set by the government in Islamabad will encourage uptake of domestic solar energy kits for individual households.

The solar energy plant will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as overcoming the frequent and prolonged power outages that affect the buildings, experts added.

Iftikhar Ahmad Qaisrani, founder of the Renewable Energy Society for Education, Awareness Research and Community Help (RESEARCH) – an Islamabad-based organisation representing the renewable energy sector – said that Pakistan is blessed with 320 days of sunshine a year and around eight hours of sun light per day.

Solar home systems could be a widespread solution as long as they can be made affordable, he believes.

Pakistan’s neighbours India and Bangladesh already benefit significantly from solar power, having converted most of their irrigation systems to this renewable source, which also provides off-grid power to thousands of homes, Qaisrani said.

“Installation of solar power is a one-time expenditure and people should be encouraged to avail (themselves of) the opportunity,” he added. “This is the right time to encourage the public and private sector to focus on solar energy and provide off-grid solutions to people living in far-flung areas of the country.”

Converting a single home to solar power may cost $3,500 to $4,000, but  if correctly installed, the system can provide uninterrupted electricity for 25 years, Qaisrani said.

“Pakistan can also save millions of dollars (in) foreign reserves per annum just by switching to solar power,” Qaisrani added.

The country uses fossil fuels to generate around 65% of its electricity. Over half of that fuel must be imported, and as prices rise on international markets, Pakistan’s electricity is becoming more expensive.

Abdul Hanan Siddhu, a solar energy consultant, said solar home systems could be up to 20% cheaper if import duties on solar panels were abolished. In addition, the government should exempt solar components from the general sales tax of 17%, he suggested.

“The government should also encourage local manufacturers to start cell manufacturing to reduce the cost,” he added. On top of this, government subsidies could help boost the solar off-grid lighting sector.

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