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Solar energy: one of the best alternative sources

Pakistan can achieve highest solar power production by 2050

Pakistan is a low-income country suffering from huge energy deficits that are not being met even with its primary source like oil and gas. 80 percent of the country’s electricity is produced through fossil fuel combustion. Pakistan has lost 7 percent of its GDP (approximately $13 million) in 2015 due to constant power outages and load-shedding.

Solar power plants are meant to meet peak power demands during day time. As technology advances the costs will come down and eventually solar power will achieve thermal fuel-based power. But until that happens, it remains one of the costlier sources of energy.

Solar plants take the shortest time to construct. Compare this to a medium to a large size hydroelectric project, which can take around 10 years. Thermal projects take between 2 to 4 years.

Pakistan can achieve highest solar power potential by 2050 as it has the potential for producing 4.8 percent electricity. The Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University and University of California have brought a detailed plan and concluded that a renewable energy powered world is indeed a possibility by 2050.

The study reports that Pakistan has a potential of producing 92 percent of its electricity requirements via solar energy, at a rate that’s amongst the highest in the world. Around 58.1 percent of that electricity can be produced by solar plants and 15 percent via Concentrated Solar Plants (CSP).

The study by the MIT research team suggests that the current solar technology is capable of getting us there if implemented appropriately. Pakistan could produce as much as 2.9 million megawatts of power from solar, 340,000 megawatts from wind and 100,000 megawatts from hydropower if funds were available to build the infrastructure, according to Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) and World Bank studies.

Pakistan is a country that could truly benefit from solar renewable energy as it is considered to have one of the highest solar insulation on Earth.

Studies have indicated that the nation experiences up to 200 W/m2 of solar radiation in most parts of its territory, except for the northern most and coastal regions. Day lengths average 12-14 hours in summer with 8-10 hours in winter.

On average, daytime lasts about 10 hours with an average solar radiation intensity ranging from 1500W/m2/day to 2750W/m2/day, with maximum radiation coming from Southern Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.

In an area of 100 m2, 45MW to 83MW power per month can potentially be generated in these regions.

The total potential for renewable energy in Pakistan is about 167,700MW, which is over 8 times more than the total electricity demand of 19000MW of the country.

A study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA reported that there exists a solar energy potential of 2.9 million MW.

Solar energy market stands to grow from $79.7 billion to $123.7 billion and with Germany setting massive precedents worldwide in renewable energy.

Pakistan could truly take advantage of this growing field. Comparatively, solar energy is also the only renewable energy option that can be constructed in the shortest time period without excessive investment such as for geo-thermal or hydal power.

Gas and oil reserves are estimated to only last another 10 and 9 years, respectively in the country

People should be encouraged and consider individual or community (shared) energy stations. With the know-how on solar energy establishment, whole communities could come together and share in investments and expenses to lessen the load.

City authorities have installed 3,400 solar panels on a 2.5-hectare parcel of the 300-hectare (750-acre) park, at a cost of $4.8 million. The system aims to provide a constant power supply to one of the city’s key recreational attractions at a time when power cuts remain a major problem due to shortfalls on the grid.

The solar installation, which produces 870 kilowatts of electricity – enough to power the equivalent of 450 homes – runs water pumps and sprinkler systems for the park, and provides power for the offices of the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) and Capital Development Authority (CDA), both located within the park.

Energy plans are being implemented on a fast-track basis in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan provinces, which account for 80 percent of the total solar and wind energy generation potential. Public private partnerships could benefit one another through this net metering as well, such as an industry selling surplus energy to nearby communities or vice versa. Alternatively, surplus energy could also be transferred back to the national grid.

Individual households in Pakistan should take advantage of this situation, and should install solar panels to cater to their needs.

Approximately, 67 percent of domestic energy consumption stems from inefficient appliances such as lights and fans.

Solar power can meet wholly the world demand of electricity. It has the capability to provide several times the country’s energy demand.

Western countries like Germany and Spain are developing solar energy. In South Asia, Bangladesh and India are quickly deploying this technology already, which is becoming cheaper each year. The Chinese have actually managed to bring down prices in the last few years.

China has an abundant of solar panel production and Chinese manufacturers that supply most of the world’s solar panels are struggling to expand fast.

Spain has been the forefront of universal efforts to produce solar energy as high as 432MW, hitting the United States by 10MW. It has opened the largest solar power station, overtaking the United States as the biggest solar generator in the world.

Spain is one of the countries of Europe with more days of the hour of sunshine. It exports 80 percent of the solar energy to Germany.

In Spain the world’s Biggest Solar Power Tower, Abengo began commercial operation of a 20MW solar plant tower near Seville in the late April 2009, called the PS20.

Israel has successfully introduced solar energy. There is no oil in Israel and it does not maintain a cordial relation with Arab oil producing countries and so in order to maintain its economic stability and security it has given utmost importance to solar energy.

With abundant sunshine available in the country, it has made immense use of solar energy for the economic development of its country.

The innovative and its advanced research have made the stride in solar energy to such an extent competitive with fossil fuel technology.

India is situated in the Earth’s equatorial Sun Belt. It receives abundant solar radiation. It is said that India experiences clear bright weather for 250 to 300 days per annum. India has kept aside 35,000-kilometer region of Thar Desert that could be sufficient in generating 700 to 21,000 gigawatts for the proposed large solar energy projects.

India has disclosed that by 2020 it will be mandatory to use solar — powered applications and equipment in every government buildings, hospitals, and hotels.

In regard to the use of solar powered application and equipment in every government buildings, hotels, and hospitals India shared the first position with the United States.

Without any doubt, solar energy has a substantial role to play in the country and needs to be actively promoted by the government on a priority basis. However, without some sort of financing, solar installations for now remain expensive and out of reach of the many.

If bank finance schemes are made available, a lot more people will install solar systems. The technology is sound, the vendors are ready, and the need is desperate. The government and the banks must jump on to financing the solar energy.

In spite of all the hurdles, the prospects of solar energy are very bright as Pakistan receives the high level of solar radiation throughout the year.

Solar energy systems have already been developed, but more have to be developed and introduced to generate economy and improve the standard of living of the poor people.

The solar system meets the necessary requirement of rural areas and reduces the pressure on traditional energy sources in urban areas. The rest can be utilized fruitfully for other domestic and industrial needs.

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