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:

http://www.qasolar.com/

http://www.dawn.com/news/1217587/solar-park-producing-12pc-more-power-than-target

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.

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.

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).

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

Note:

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).

Solar Payback Time in Pakistan

It is quite well known fact that installing a solar system at your home requires a large initial investment. But it is also known that solar panels have a typical life period of 25 years. Other equipment used in a solar system such as batteries, charge controllers and inverters have a shorter life span and may need to be replaced every 2-4 years. In this article we try to calculate the payback time of a simple solar system that uses all its energy in real time converting DC voltage produced by the solar panel to AC voltage through an inverter.

Let us assume that our load requirement is 500 W and we have 5 solar panels of 100 W each. We next assume that we have an inverter also rated at 500 W. Let us further assume that the solar panels receives peak sunshine for 6 hours daily (this is called Peak Sun Hours and is quite complicated to explain in this brief article). Therefore the total energy produced during a 24 hour period is

500 W x 6 hr = 3000 Whr = 3 kWhr

In one month the solar panel would produce

3 kWhr x 30 = 90 kWhr or 90 units of energy

Now assuming that a unit of energy is sold to you at Rs. 15 (including all the taxes and surcharges) the total savings per month are

90 units x Rs. 15/unit = Rs. 1350

Now let us look at the investment we made in the solar system. Solar panels are widely available in the local market for Rs.100/watt. This results in Rs. 50,000 investment in solar panels. An additional Rs. 10,000 are spent in the inverter. So the total cost of the solar system is Rs. 60,000.

So the payback time of this solar system is

60,000 / 1350 = 45 months or 3.75 years

This is highly encouraging because all your investment is recovered in less than 4 years and you have 21 years of free energy from your solar system.

Solar Payback Time in Pakistan is about 4 Years

Solar Payback Time in Pakistan is about 4 Years

Note:

1. The above analysis is also valid for grid tied systems where the energy is sold to the grid during the off peak hours (day time) and  bought from the grid during peak hours (evening, night time).

2. A real system would also need some batteries to provide backup when there is a power shut down and solar energy is also not available.

3. Although solar system is expected to have 25 years of life, it will not operate at 100% throughout this life period e.g. it might be operating at only 80% after 20 years.

Solar Irradiance as a Function of Wavelength

Solar Irradiance I(\lambda) refers to Solar Energy falling on to the Earth on a unit area. Since this Solar Energy is limited to certain wavelengths (or frequencies) therefore it is usually given as a function of wavelength and the has the units of Watts/m2/wavelength. This is shown in the figure below for a unit area perpendicular to the solar rays and lying outside the Earth's atmosphere. This is referred to as AM0 since there is zero atmosphere, as opposed to AM1.5 which is on the Earth's surface.

Solar Spectra

So roughly speaking we can say that most of the Solar Energy lies between the 0 to 4 micrometer (NREL gives the AM0 spectrum from 280 to 4000 nanometer). A device that can capture all of this energy would be very useful and this is the aim of all modern Solar Cell manufacturers. The total Solar Power available on a surface of unit area can be easily calculated by integrating the above given Solar Irradiance curve from 0 to infinity and this gives us a magic number of 1367W/m2 (the value of the dotted curve at 4000 nanometer).

But all of this power does not reach the Earth's surface. Some of it is absorbed on the way. The total Solar Power available on the Earth's surface is equal to 1000W/m2 i.e. a reduction of 27% from that outside the Earth's atmosphere. The magic number of 1367W/m2 might be important for satellites using Solar Panels for their energy requirements and orbiting the Earth outside its atmosphere.

The Solar Spectra can also be calculated by using the theory of Black Body Radiation. According to this the Solar Spectra can be well estimated by a Black Body radiating at a temperature of 5960K (blue curve).

Note:

1. The Irradiance of 1000W/m2 is under ideal conditions (bright sunny day, at zero altitude and solar rays perpendicular to the capturing surface) but even this is not available to a Solar Home since the Solar Panels only have 15%-20% efficiency. So a 1m2 Solar Panel might only give you 150W-200W under ideal conditions. But do not get depressed yet as new research findings promise Solar Cells with efficiencies as high as 45%.