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Bridging the shortfall: Varsities focusing on alternative energy resources

While the country is facing one of the worst energy crises in recent memory, varsities are looking to capitalise on alternative energy resources in collaboration with the government and foreign researchers.

“NUST is collaborating with medium and small landowners through a government-subisdised programme to build cost-effective solar tube wells for 12.5 acres of land,” said Dr Mohammad Bilal Khan, dean School of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST).

One of their projects to obtain thermal energy is for the production of electricity. “Through the waste heat recovery project NUST master trainers are helping industrial units create up to 1 megawatt (MW) electricity in areas where usually 10 MW are consumed,” he said.

The Agriculture University of Faisalabad (AUF) and the University of Gujrat have successfully carried out experiments on the production of biogas and green energy.

The university is starting a four-year graduate programme this autumn which will include energy-related subjects. “There is also a project underway with a German and Italian consortium which is producing 5MW electricity for the university,” said Vice-Chancellor (VC) Dr Iqrar Ali Khan.

AUF has trained 50 trainers in biogas in a pilot project. “Now in seven districts of Punjab the university will train 10,000 farmers to be nominated by district commissioners,” said the VC.

Dr Khawar Islam, director engineering department at the University of Gujrat, said their sports ground and seven academic blocks are run on solar energy under the alternative source of electricity programme.

“A plan to provide solar panels for submersible motors and tube wells to farmers is almost complete,” he added. Another electricity-saving measure involves burying the condensing unit of the air conditioning system 10 feet underground to enhance its efficiency.”

A number of projects have been undertaken with British universities under the International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education (INSPIRE). These projects include developing water turbines for electric power generation between the University of Southampton and NUST and increasing the efficiency of wind energy systems between Cambridge University and Air University, Islamabad.

Numerous research and alternative energy resources projects are underway at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Peshawar. The university also has a technology incubation centre for research and innovation.

UET VC Imtiaz Gilani said they were working on a mini hydel power project and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure. Under the programme, electricity will be produced at a micro level through turbines and even from canal water which has low pressure.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has established a Centre of Advanced Study and Research on Energy at NUST and UET Peshawar with assistance from USAID.

HEC Chairperson Dr Javaid Laghari said the commission aims to develop local expertise and indigenous technology for effective use of natural and renewable sources through collaborations with foreign universities.

“These projects can be commercialised,” he added, underlining the need to invest in scientists and research facilities to tackle energy-related issues through collaborative research.

A number of energy-specific projects have been undertaken with American universities under the Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Programme.

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