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Nazmul Likhon
The government is contemplating adding excess electricity generated from the Solar Irrigation System to the national grid.
The initiative is going to be taken to popularise solar irrigation projects more and increase the use of renewable energy, official sources said.
Recently, the government has introduced net-metering policy to buy electricity from the people’s rooftop solar system. Under the system, the consumers, having minimum 10 kilowatts of electricity load, will get the opportunity to sell their PV rooftop-solar power to the national grid.
The consumers, who use electricity from the grid, can adjust their bills through an exchange arrangement by a special meter.
Power Cell director (Sustainable Energy) Md Abdur Rouf Miah told Bangladesh Post that the solar irrigation project is becoming popular day by day. More than one thousand projects have already been done. The government wants to go for more solar-irrigation projects in an effort to protect the negative impact on the environment and help the farmers as well.

“It is not always necessary to irrigate cropland. But the solar system continues to generate electricity in presence of sunlight. Ultimately, the electricity gets wasted during that time. Therefore, we want to use this excess electricity for various purposes to get more commercial benefit of the Solar Irrigation system”, he added.

Abdur Rouf said, “We have already started using unused electricity for fisheries in some areas. We have asked the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) for taking steps either to add excess electricity to the national grid or to provide local residents.”

Solar-based irrigation systems are innovative and environment friendly solution to the agro-based economy of Bangladesh. The programme intends to provide irrigation facility to rural off-grid areas. Solar irrigation systems reduce dependency on fossil fuel and demand for electricity from national grid in irrigation seasons. The programme also reduces carbon emission and at the same time saves millions in foreign currency.

The IDCOL has now set a target of installing 50,000 solar irrigation pumps by 2025.

Up to August 2018, IDCOL has approved 1,140 solar irrigation pumps of which 968 are already in operation with a cumulative capacity of 18.14 MWp. Some NGOs and private organisations are installing and supervising the pumps. The World Bank, KfW, GPOBA, JICA, USAID, ADB and BCCRF are supporting this initiative.

Power division and IDCOL sources said the government has initiated several initiatives to reduce agricultural costs. Solar Irrigation Pump is less than one fourth of the irrigation cost of the diesel pump.

According to sources, the government wants to increase the use of environment-friendly renewable power and replace about 17 lakh of electric and diesel-operated pump by alternate solar pumps.

According to IDCOL, a solar pump can provide continuous irrigation water for more than 20 years. It’s run by sunlight. So there is no fuel cost. The irrigation cost for 1 bigha land under solar pump is Tk 2,500 to Tk 3,000. Which is less than 1,000 to 1,800 taka compared to the diesel pump.

According to sources, there are about 13,40,000 diesel operated and 2,70,000 electric pumps in the country. An average of 15 lakh tonnes of diesel is used for irrigation every year. The government is giving subsidies of Tk 75 to Tk 80 crores on diesel irrigation. Still, during the agricultural season, diesel deficiency is artificially created, which causes local price to go up. Additional demand of 1700 megawatts of electricity was made to run the electric powered pumps.

Md Enamul Karim Pavel, head of Renewable Energy of IDCOL, told Bangladesh Post that they want to install about 1,500 solar irrigation pumps by this year.

The entrepreneurs have to invest only 15 percent of total cost of the Solar Irrigation Pump project. IDCOL provides remaining 85 percent of the project cost. Of this, 50 percent in grants and 35 percent in simple-term loan with 6 percent interest which will have to be paid in 10 years.

About 4.5 million solar home system (SHS) have been installed by IDCOL programme in the remote areas where electrification through grid expansion is challenging and costly. The programme has been acclaimed as the largest off-grid renewable energy programme in the world.