Grid-connected solar outpacing remote installations in Bangladesh

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The volume of new grid-connected solar generation capacity again surpassed that of standalone facilities in Bangladesh last year, thanks to expansion of the grid’s reach.

The nation’s Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) reported 2019 saw 24.99 MW of new grid connected PV capacity, compared to 18.26 MW of off-grid projects. Those figures marked a widening gap between the two types of project after Bangladesh saw 27.34 MW of grid connected solar capacity added in 2018, against 26.32 MW of standalone projects.

With the first, off-grid solar home systems installed in Bangladesh in 1997, the World Bank in 2003 began providing low-cost finance to the state-run Infrastructure Development Company Limited which has backed the installation of more than 4 million such micro generation systems, many of them for free in remote areas far from the grid. SREDA estimates some 5.8 million solar home systems have been installed in Bangladesh.

Change of focus

However, the expansion of grid infrastructure is already sufficient to reach almost all parts of the nation, according to Former SREDA member Siddique Zobair, and has killed demand for solar home systems.

“Now we are trying to enhance solar power production in on-grid [systems] like large size solar power [plants]; rooftop solar by net metering; and grid-connected, solar-run irrigation [pumps],” Zobair told pv magazine. “We want to [offset] the off-grid green energy production loss by on-grid [generation].”

Zobair added, however, there remains demand for free solar home systems in grid connected areas where households are unable to pay electricity bills.

Large scale boost

Dipal C Barua, president of the Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association, agreed grid expansion would further affect the volume of new off-grid solar generation capacity added in 2020. “This year the new installation of off-grid solar may further fall,” he told pv magazine.

However, Barua pointed out, a more extensive grid would enable the development of large scale solar plants in new parts of the country.

Of the near-25 MW of grid-connected solar capacity added last year, 10,827 kW came in the form of rooftop PV, according to a senior Power Division official. An 8 MW plant which came online in the Panchaghar district in November accounted for a further slice of the new on-grid capacity.