Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park - The Reality

There have been conflicting claims about the capacity of Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park (QASP) in the media. While the the chief executive officer of the Quaid-i-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Limited claims that the project is producing 12% more energy than expected, opposition parties are claiming that it is producing only 18 MW as compared to the advertised capacity of 100 MW. So what is the truth?

Energy vs Power

Actually both the parties are correct in some sense. While the project does have the capacity of producing 100 MW peak power, this only happens for a very short duration during the day (around noon time). When averaged over 24 hours the park is only producing about 20 MW. This can be easily calculated by assuming that the peak solar energy is available for 5 hours (typical for this region) and average it over 24 hours.

100 MW x (5/24) = 20.83 MW

We can also calculate the average power produced by the park by looking at the numbers provided by Quaid-i-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Limited on its website. According to the website the park is producing 169 Gigawatt Hour as compared to the original estimates of 153 Gigawatt Hour per year (a 12% increase). But this is energy, how do we calculate power?

The answer is simple, divide the energy produced in a year by the number of hours in a year (365 x 24 = 8760 hours).

Average power produced = 169 GWH / 8760 hours = 19.29 MW

Cost of Production and Tariff

The good news is that there is very minimal cost of production of solar energy (there was an installation cost of Rs.13 billion plus there are about 700 security personal deployed for the security of 700 Chinese engineers working in the park). The tariff can be easily calculated by the revenue earned and the energy produced. According to QASP sources the revenue reached a peak of Rs. 320 million in September. Lets calculate the cost per unit from the total revenue earned in September and the energy produced in the month of September.

Cost per unit = Rs.320,000,000/(19,290kW * 24 hours * 30 days)= Rs. 23.04/unit.

So the QASP claim that it is costing a consumer Rs.12/unit is not true. The actual cost to a consumer is Rs.23.04/unit. Again the data has been taken from QASP website.

Environmental Impact

There is no doubt that there is going to be a negative impact on the environment. About 500 acres of desert have been taken over by QASP and this will definitely impact the biodiversity of the region. The total area dedicated to this project by Chief Minister of Punjab Mr. Shahbaz Sharif is 6500 acres (near Lal Sohanra National Park). Lastly there are vasts swaths of land in Balochistan which receive about 10-20% more Solar Irradiance than any location in Punjab and there are a number of new and existing Hydel projects that are crying for attention (case in point being Tarbela expansion which can yield additional 1400 MW of power).

Information taken from:



World Fossil Fuel Reserves

While alternate energies such as solar and wind are becoming increasingly important by the day, fossil fuels still have an important place in the energy mix and will continue to do so in foreseeable future. In this post we compare the reserves of three most important fossil fuels and their total value as per market rates at the moment amongst the top ten producers of the world.

Rank Country Oil (billion barrels) Gas (trillion cubic feet) Coal (billion tons) Value (trillion dollars)
1 Russia 87 1163 157 40.7
2 Iran 157 1187.3 35.3
3 Venezuela 297.6 196.4 479 34.9
4 Saudi Arabia 265.9 290.8 33
5 USA 35 300 237 28.5
6 Canada 173.9 70 6.58 20.2
7 Iraq 150 126.7 18
8 Qatar 23.9 885.1 16.4
9 UAE 97.8 215.1 13.8
10 China 17.3 109.3 115 13.2
Iran Pakistan Gas Pipeline

Iran Pakistan Gas Pipeline

From a regional perspective it is important to note that two of Pakistan's neighbors namely Iran and China have substantial reserves of oil, gas and coal. Iran is in fact number one as far as proven reserves of natural gas are concerned and fourth in the world in oil reserves. However, large production of fossil fuels has been hampered by the sanctions imposed on Iran by USA and EU.

It is expected that once these sanctions are removed Iran will have a greater role to play in the international market of fossil fuels. It must also be noted that work is under progress on the Pak-Iran gas pipeline which will bring natural gas from Iran to the cities of Pakistan. Iran has completed most of the work on its side of the border but work is slow on the Pakistani side.

Source: Business Insider

Business Insider used data from British Petroleum’s 2013 statistical review of world energy and calculated the countries with the largest reserves in three key fossil fuel categories—oil, coal, and natural gas.

BI then calculated the total value of the reserves by using current global prices.

Solar Panels from Used Batteries

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have demonstrated a procedure to convert used lead acid batteries from automobiles into solar panels. A single battery can be used to produce solar panels for as many as 30 homes. It must be noted that with the advancement in battery technology it is expected that 200 million lead acid batteries would be retired soon from USA alone. This development shows us a way forward to reusing a huge resource of lead that would be otherwise go to dumping sites.

A material that is making this possible is organolead halide perovskite. A layer of perovskite only 1/2 a micrometer thick is enough to produce a solar panel and does not require a very high manufacturing process like for other silicon based solar panels. One might think that this is another experimental material that achieves an efficiency in single digits. But this is hardly the case. In just a few years of research perovskite based solar cells have achieved efficiency of more than 19%. It is expected by the end of 2014 the efficiency would cross the psychological barrier of 20%.

1 Battery Provides Solar Panels for 30 Homes

1 Battery Provides Solar Panels for 30 Homes

Perovskite (source: Wikipedia)  is a calcium titanium oxide mineral species composed of calcium titanate, with the chemical formula CaTiO3. The mineral was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia by Gustav Rose in 1839 and is named after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski (1792–1856).

It lends its name to the class of compounds which have the same type of crystal structure as CaTiO3 known as the perovskite structure. The perovskite crystal structure was first described by Victor Goldschmidt in 1926, in his work on tolerance factors. The crystal structure was later published in 1945 from X-ray diffraction data on barium titanate by Helen Dick Megaw.

Efficiency of a solar panel is the ratio of the electrical energy produced to the incident solar radiation e.g. a 20% efficient solar panel of 1 m2 area would produce 200 W when the incident solar radiation reaches a level of 1000 W/m2.

First Solar Likely to Invest in Pakistan

First Solar, America's Solar giant is poised to invest in Pakistan's Alternate Energy sector after starting a 45 MW Solar project in Indian state of Telangana. First Solar has a worldwide installed capacity of 8 GW and was ranked no. 1 in Forbes list of 25 fastest growing technology companies in USA. The 45 MW project to be launched in Telangana will be operational by May of 2015 and would sell electricity at a rate of $0.106/kWh. India currently has an installed Solar capacity of 2900 MW which will be ramped up to 9000 MW by 2017.

According to some estimates Pakistan is facing an energy shortfall of around 4600 MW and government is quite keen to start new projects, be it Solar, Hydel or Thermal. Pakistan has set a target of 5% of energy to be generated from Alternate Energies by 2030. This is quite a conservative target and might actually be achieved before 2030, especially with the new initiatives such as the 1000 MW Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park to be operational by end 0f 2016. It is hoped that with a stable government and sustained policies in the coming years the Solar Energy sector would prosper and Pakistan would achieve its targets much before 2030.

Solar Park

Solar Park

First Solar Sets New CdTe Solar Cell Efficiency Record

First Solar Inc. an American manufacturer of thin film Photovoltaic (PV) modules announced that it has achieved a record efficiency of 21% for its CdTe Solar Cells. The previous best achieved by the company was 20.4% in Feb of 2014. The record has been accepted by US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and included in "Best Research Cell Efficiency" reference chart. First solar aims to achieve an efficiency of 22% by 2015.

Thin Film Solar Panels

Thin Film Solar Panels

Note: Efficiency of a Solar Cell is the ratio of the Electrical Energy produced to the incident Solar Energy e.g. if the incident Solar Radiation is 1000 W/m2 the Electrical Energy produced by a 21% efficient Solar Panel of 1 m2 area is 210 W (neglecting the various losses that might be encountered).

Government Imposes 32.5% Tax on Solar

According to Finance Act 2014, the federal government has amended SRO 575 2006-07 and imposed a tax of 32.5% on import of Solar Panels. It must be noted that Solar Panels were placed in a special category with no tax since 2006. This was done to encourage the adoption of this Alternate Energy in the country. The government instead of taking steps to promote Solar Energy has taken the worst possible decision, at a time when the country is facing an acute energy crisis. The only possible explanation for this action is that the government intends to encourage local production of Solar Panels, which at the moment is minimal. What is troubling is that the Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) which is tasked with increasing the Alternate Energy contribution in the country to about 5% by 2030 was not even consulted.

Solar Panel

The breakdown of the imposed tax is as follows.

General Sales Tax 17%

Import Duty 5%

Commercial Importer 3%

Income Tax on the Import 5.5%

Hardest hit are the importers who had imported Solar Panels in bulk and now have to pay taxes amounting in millions of rupees (5-6 million per container). According to sources there are about 60 to 70 containers at the port which are waiting for clearance by customs. Also suffering are Solar solution providers who do not have enough equipment now to fulfill their commitments. It must be noted that energy demand reaches its peak in summer months and this is the time when Solar businesses make their profits. Also to be hit is the agriculture sector where Solar Pumps have become quite popular in recent times.

The government has recently shown considerable interest in Solar technology with the launch of Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur. Previously, the Gillani government had also taken some steps to promote Alternate Energies in the country, such as starting Wind Energy projects in Jhimpir. It is hoped that better sense would prevail and the government would revisit the Fiance Act 2014 which has created this mess!

Note: Since this article was published on July 29, 2014 there has been another article that totally refutes the imposition of any additional taxes on solar equipment. According to this article titled Demystifying the Tax on Solar Panels "if an importer verified the import (through the Engineering Development Board) as a unique product not manufactured or available in Pakistan, the importer would not have to pay custom tax". The news item about imposition of tax may have been untrue but it did have some effect as the 60-70 containers stuck at Karachi were immediately released.

Solar Car Build by Islamabad Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur in Islamabad has built a solar car that can run at 80 km/hour and has a range of 80 km. The car has solar panels on all its sides and roof which provide the energy to run the car. The car can also be plugged into an electrical socket to charge the batteries when they get discharged and solar energy is not available. According to the the designer all components have been locally manufactured except for the motor which has been imported from overseas (and obviously panels must have been imported as well). The current version of the car is a 2-seater but a 4-seater is also under construction.

Solar Car

Solar Car

Solar Car

Solar Car

The car is registered in Islamabad under the local laws. The company that invented this car, known as Economia, wants to commercialize this car by offering it has an alternate to taxis running on CNG and/or fuel. The company has submitted a proposal to the Government of Pakistan to allow it to start a local taxi system in Islamabad with 30-40 taxi stands in important areas of the city. This is a very encouraging development but it remains to be seen if it is able to taste commercial success.

According to the specs provided on the website the 2-seater version runs on a 2.2 KW motor whereas the 4-seater version runs on two 2.2 kW motors. The operating voltage of the motor and batteries is 48 V. The car is expected to be highly efficient and cost only Rs. 1/km. The price of the different versions range from Rs. 350,000 to Rs. 525,000.

Parameter ECO-1/ECO-1L ECO-2GL
Voltage of Battery 48 V 48 V
Seats 2-4 4
Power 2.2 kW x 1 2.2 kW x 2
Distance Per Charge 80 km 80 km
Charge Time 2-3 hours 2-3 hours
Maximum Speed 40-60 km/hr 60-80 km/hr
Motor 2.2 kW x 1, 48 V 2.2 kW x 2, 48 V
Charger 48 V, 20 A 48 V, 20-40 A
Controller 48 V, 90 A x 1 48 V, 70 A x 2


1. Input of 2.2 KW at 48 Volts means the motor needs 45 Amps to run.

2. If the solar panels on the car are about 500 W (100 W for each side and 100 W for the roof) the car would need to charge for about 4.4 hours in the sunlight to provide 1 hour of drive time. Realistically speaking, the 500 W panels would be producing only half the rated power since they cannot all be aligned to the sun at the same time.

3. Assuming that when the batteries are fully charged they can provide 2.2 KWhr of energy or simply 2.2 KW for one hour. At Rs. 15 per unit the cost for charging the batteries from an electrical outlet comes out to be Rs.33. Now if this car is able to drive for one hour at 60 Km/hour the cost per km would be Rs. 0.55 (this is assuming 100% efficiency which is practically not possible).

Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park - ROI

The government of Pakistan has recently launched the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in the Cholistan desert near Bahawalpur. The project aims to produce 100 MW of electrical energy by end of 2014 and 1000 MW by end of 2016. This is a small step in the right direction. Countries like India, China and Germany are much ahead in the game with installed solar projects of 2600 MW, 20000 MW and 36000 MW respectively. Let us take a closer look at the price that we will have to pay for the energy produced.

The cost of the 100 MW project is around $131 million, that is the price per Watt is $1.31. That seems to be quite good, lets look closely. We know that 400,000 panels are to be installed in the first phase to produce 100 MW of electrical energy. This means that each Solar Panel would produce 250 W and the cost of each panel would be $327.5 or Rs.32750.

Assuming that there is peak solar energy available for six hours daily, each solar panel would produce 1.5 kWhr of energy each day or 547.5 kWhr of energy per year. This amounts to 13687.5 kWhr of energy over a 25 year period (assuming that the performance of the Solar Panels does not degrade over the 25 year period). Now assuming that each unit of energy (kWhr) is sold at Rs.15 the total energy produced by the Solar Panel over its life period amounts to Rs.205312.5 i.e the revenue earned from selling electricity is 6.27 times the investment (205312.5/32750=6.27).

Solar Park Bahawalpur

Solar Park Bahawalpur

In other words the investment is recovered in 4 years and you have free electricity for the remaining 21 years. Please note that the above calculations do not include the operational costs, if any. Also, the above analysis assumes that the performance of the Solar Panels does not degrade over its life time.

Final Comment: The location of the proposed project does not seem to be optimum as Bahawalpur is receiving 2000 kWhr per squared meter per year as opposed to vast expanses of Balochistan that receive 2200 kWhr per squared meter per year.

World Record Solar Cell with 44.7% Efficiency

Do Numbers Make Sense

World Record IV

Press Release

"The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin have jointly announced that they have achieved a new world record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. Surpassing competition after only over three years of research, and entering the roadmap at world class level, a new record efficiency of 44.7% was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. This indicates that 44.7% of the solar spectrum's energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, is converted into electrical energy. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of solar electricity and continues to pave the way to the 50% efficiency roadmap".

"These solar cells are used in concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), a technology which achieves more than twice the efficiency of conventional PV power plants in sun-rich locations. The terrestrial use of so-called III-V multi-junction solar cells, which originally came from space technology, has prevailed to realize highest efficiencies for the conversion of sunlight to electricity. In this multi-junction solar cell, several cells made out of different III-V semiconductor materials are stacked on top of each other. The single subcells absorb different wavelength ranges of the solar spectrum".

A Closer Look at the Numebrs

Let us now try to validate the numbers given above.

Power is the product of voltage and current.

Pideal=Voc Isc=(4.165)(0.1921)=0.8001Watts


This is the power produced by 5.20mm2 of solar cell.

1mm2 of solar cell would produce 0.1331Watts.

1m2 of solar cell would produce 133.1kW of solar energy.

This is the power generated due to 297.3 suns.

A single sun would produce 133.1kW/297.3=447.67Watts of power.

This gives us an efficiency of 447.67/1000=0.4477=44.77%.