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.

Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET)

Pakistan did realize the potential of Alternate Energies quite early and National Institute of Silicon Technology (NIST) was formed in 1981 to conduct research in the area of Solar Energy. Later on Pakistan Council for Appropriate Technology (PCAT) was formed in 1985. These two organizations were merged together under the umbrella of Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET) in 2001. The government of Pakistan also formed the Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) in 2003. Although these organizations have been working in the Alternate Energy sector for more than 30 years but there are not many achievements to be proud of. Some pilot projects have been initiated by PCRET and AEDB in remote parts of the country but there is no holistic approach to overcome the energy crisis besetting the country (one interesting initiative that has been taken by the Government of Pakistan in recent times is the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur).

One interesting initiative undertaken by PCRET is indigenous development of 3rd Generation Solar Cells using Nanotechnology. However,the Solar Cells developed using this technique have very low efficiency (around 1%) as compared to international standards (around 10%). Nonetheless, this is an important step towards indigenous development and it is hoped that the efficiency of these Solar Cells can be improved with time so that they are of some practical use. Some of the products developed by PCRET in the area of Solar Thermal are Solar Desalination Plant, Solar Water Heater, Solar Cooker and Dehydrator.

As per PCRET website the total installed capacities of various Alternate Energy technologies in Pakistan are:

1. Installed 538 Microhydel Power Plants  (5-50 KW capacity) with total capacity of 7.8 MW, 70,000 houses electrified.

2. Installed 155 small wind turbines (0.5 KW to 10 KW) with total capacity of 161 KW in Sindh and Balochistan, electrifying 1560 houses and 9-coast guard check posts.

3. Installed 300 Solar PV systems with total capacity of 100 KW electrifying 500 houses, mosques, schools and street lights.

4. Installed 4000 Biogas Plants (size 3&5M3/day, producing 18000 M3/day).

5. Developed 6-models of efficient smokeless cook stoves for cooking and space heating.

6. 100,000 mud stoves have been built in rural houses; saving 36500 tons of fuel wood per year.

7. Installed 21 solar dryers with total capacity of processing 5230 Kg of fruit per day.

Earthquake Resistant and Energy Efficient Homes - PAKSBAB

After the devastating earthquake of 2005 which destroyed nearly half a million rural homes in Pakistan, there was an urgent need to build earthquake resistant homes. Thus came into being PAKSBAB which is the short form of Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Buildings. So far PAKSBAB, from its limited resources, has build 27 homes in northern parts of Pakistan. These homes have been built using indigenous resources and by training the local people in construction of straw bale houses.

A typical straw bale house has an area of 576 square feet and costs $3000 on average. This  turns out to be $5.2/square feet which is less than half the cost of brick and mortar houses. A typical home comprises of two rooms, a verandah and a kitchen and requires around 1200 hours of labour. So 6 people working for 8 hours daily can construct a straw bale house in 25 days!

The main advantages of straw bale houses over brick and mortar houses are highlighted below.

1. Energy efficiency, since straw is a good insulator

2. Non toxic products are used (light straw, clay and wood)

3. Cheap materials are used resulting in a cost that is half that of a regular house

4. Resistant to earthquakes

Energy Efficient House

Tightly packed walls and a gravel weighted foundation creates better weather-proofing


Energy Efficient House

Twice as energy efficient as a conventional house, straw bale makes for environmentally friendly earthquake-proof homes

Energy Efficient House

Clay-plaster reinforced, a fabricated straw bale house costs half the expenses of modern building for every square foot

Straw bales required for the construction of these energy efficient and earthquake resilient homes are built using manually operated farm jacks and locally manufactured compression moulds. Furthermore the local industry is being encouraged to supply straw bales and other materials required for these projects. Additional appropriate building methods that PAKSBAB is promoting include passive solar, rainwater catchment, solar lamps, high-efficiency cooking and heating, and the use of natural building materials such as light straw clay, wattle and daub, and cob.

Can I Run My Air Conditioner on Solar

Air Conditioner on Solar

Air Conditioner on Solar

I have been asked this question many time by my friends "Can I Run My Air Conditioner on Solar". The short answer to this question is YES YOU CAN. For the longer version you would have to read rest of the article below.

Lets assume that you have a basic unit that is categorized as 1-ton. Now the way Air Conditioners work is that they draw a lot of current at the start, as much as three times the normal steady state current. So a 1-ton AC might be drawing only 1200 Watts at steady state, it may require as much as 3600 Watts at start up. Now there are two ways to solving this problem. Either you can put up 3600 Watts of Solar Panels on your roof and operate your system only when peak sunshine is available. Or, the better option is to have enough panels to run the AC at steady state and use some batteries to provide the initial peak current or power. These batteries will also provide back up after solar hours and when the electricity from the main grid is not available.

One company providing solar solutions in Pakistan recommends installing 1800 Watts of solar panels and 600 Ampere Hours of batteries. So assuming that we have 6 hours of peak sunshine available the solar panels would be able to run the AC for about 6 hours directly on solar energy (assuming an average power consumption of 1800 Watts). After the solar hours the battery would be charged by the main grid and can provide backup of at around 4 hours (12 V x 600 Ah / 1800 W =4 hours). Also one must not forget that to convert DC voltages to AC voltages you would need an inverter and for controlling the charge and discharge cycles of the batteries a charge controller would be needed. Usually the modern solar inverters have built in charge controllers which somewhat limits the costs.

After going through all this technical jargon the question that needs to be answered is "How Much Would This System Cost". The answer to this is around Rs.450,000 including transportation and installation. You might think that this is too high a cost, but think of it this way, even if you are saving Rs.5000 on your electricity bill per month you would have saved enough to offset the cost in about 8 years. And solar panels would last you much longer than 8 years (typically around 25 years).

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.

Primary and Secondary Batteries

A battery is a device that is used to store electrical energy in a solar system. The energy stored in a battery also called the charge capacity is given in Ampere Hours (AH). A 10AH battery can give 1A for 10hours or 2A for 5hours or any other combination. The voltage of the battery together with its charge capacity defines the energy stored in Watt Hours (WH) e.g. a 10AH battery operating at 12V can store 120WH of electrical energy. The energy storage capacity of a battery depends upon the type and weight of the material used. An important metric in this regard is the energy storage capacity per kilogram of material (WH/kg).

Batteries are composed of two terminals called anode (negative) and cathode (positive) and an electrolyte. Based upon the materials used in construction of batteries they can be classified into primary or secondary.

Primary and Seconday Battery Types

 Primary Cells or Batteries

• Not rechargeable
• Electrolyte is contained by absorbent (dry cell)
• Convenient, inexpensive, lightweight
• Used for portable electronics and electric devices, lighting, etc
• Good shelf life
• High energy density
• No or low maintenance
• Usually small scale power

Secondary Cells or Batteries

• Rechargeable
• Used for energy storage applications (e.g. solar backup, automotive)
• Used as rechargeable primary battery (electronics, electrical car)
• High power density
• High discharge rate
• Usually lower energy density
• Poorer charge retention