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Tapping solar energy

IT is unfortunate that Pakistanis are sweltering in 40+ degrees C temperature without electricity when a remedy is easily available. It takes no rocket science to install photovoltaic cells for electricity generation. It can be done for single homes, as well as for a city– even for the whole country.

It does not involve mega- million dollars, nor does it take several years to complete. It took only two days to install 18 solar panels (6 x 3) on our home in Honolulu. It might take a little longer in drilling through concrete (in Honolulu it is mostly wood). It cost us $20,000, out of which the government returned 65 per cent through tax incentives. While our electricity consumption has remained unchanged (perhaps increased), most of it now comes from our PV system.

Our electricity bill dropped from $150 a month to $16 (which is the minimum service charge levied by the electricity company). We are also connected to the city’s grid which supplies our electricity needs at night.

More than 100 countries use solar PV. The world solar PV capacity rose from 7.6 GW in 2007 to 40 GW in 2010– and continues to rise.

Installations may be ground- mounted, or built into the roof or walls of a building.

Pakistan, with its vast stretches of barren desert land, probably has the potential to meet its entire electricity need from the intense sunlight that falls on its terrain most of the time. And while the country’s sweltering heat causes us discomfort, it is a boon for solar- powered electricity generation. And, with electricity production being virtually free, many more people will be able to afford installing airconditioners. So, we will have a win- win situation.

While there is no electricity generation at night, that need can be supplied by the existing power generating plants in the country. The only ‘extra’ cost the country will need to bear, unfortunately, will be to ensure terrorists do not blow up the panels.

Pakistan should immediately encourage going solar. While it needs trained electricians to connect solar- generated electricity to the existing utility system, this also does not require rocket science.

With solving the energy crisis being high on the new government’s priority list, it should not be a question of whether the country should consider solar, it should be how soon can we implement this programme.

SALEEM AHMED

Solar Energy Consultant

Honolulu, USA

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