Tuesday, November 24, 2020 | ePaper

Fund crunch in installation of solar irrigation pumps is a sad saga

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INSTALLATION of solar irrigation pumps is facing severe obstruction due to non-availability of grant fund, as per a local daily report. The Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) did not approve any new applications for setting up of the pumps since early this year due to non-availability of grant funds.
The state-owned company provides 50 per cent of the total cost as grants, 35 per cent as loans and the rest 15 per cent comes as the equity. Until October last year, the IDCOL approved 1,630 pumps, of which 1,323 are in operation with a cumulative generating capacity of about 32 megawatts of power (MWp). The IDCOL has set a target of installing 50,000 solar irrigation pumps by 2025.
Until now, some 1,950 solar pumps were installed with a total power generation capacity of around 47 MW. There are some 1.34 million diesel-run irrigation pumps which consume nearly US$1.0 billion worth of fuel oil annually. Also, some 365,000 electricity-run pumps are there which require nearly 2,000 MW of power during summer. The government has a plan to replace these irrigation pumps with solar-powered ones to reduce dependence on costly imported fuel oil.
For a scheme which has the potential to save the nation over 8600 crore takas every year the government should not rely on the availability of funds from donors but rather set up funds from other sources. As it stands the nation is currently paying Tk 8500 crore in subsidies to diesel and other fuel power plants as subsidies. By eliminating these contracts gradually we can easily pump in at least Tk 1000 crore every year to fund this project which has the potential to save the nation huge foreign exchange deprivation.
Our nation has a surplus of foreign exchange not due to our physical exports but rather due to the blood and sweat of our workers who work hard to inflate our balance of payments.Thus every dollar that we have is precious, and must not be wasted on frivolity.We have been gifted a God given resource--solar power.
Bangladesh has one of the highest solar irradiance levels of  any nation where there is no desert. The average solar irradiance in Bangladesh ranges from 215 W/m² in the north-west to 235 W/m² in the south-west per day.Long term data confirms that we can produce between 1387 to 1461 KWhr per square meter (roughly 11 square feet) of land per year  in Bangladesh.This is easily enough top provide all of our electricity needs for the next fifty years. 

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