Dissemination of Solar PV Systems in Bangladesh: A Case Study: Narsingdi Solar PV Systems

Dr. M. Eusuf, Former Chairman, BCSIR, Presently Senior Fellow, BCAS

This was a pilot project based on a French financial grant of 6.4 million French frank. Foreign currency component of the project is provided as grant by the Govt. of France to GOB and subsequently by GOB to REB. Local currency of Tk. 2.70 crore was provided by the Govt. of Bangladesh.

A total of 795 PV units of 5 systems ranging from 6 Wp to 92 Wp have been supplied/installed. These PV units are divided into two broad categories, viz. (1) Stand-alone system, and (2) Charging- station-based system. Systems I, IV and V belong of the former category and systems II and Ill to the latter.

In the stand-alone system, the users are provided with all the components, viz. PV module, battery, controller, wiring system and the loads. In the charging station-based system, all the components excepting the PV module are provided to the users.

System 1 consists of a 8-watt lantern, 3watt incandescent lamp and 6 watt peak (Wp) module. In System II, there is a 12volt (60 AH) battery to light two 8-watt fluorescent tubes and to run a TV/Tape and in system Ill, there are two 12-volt batteries (60 AH each) to light two 8watt and one 13-watt fluorescent tubes and also to run a fan and a TV/Tape. The batteries for these systems are charged at solar charging stations. Three solar charging stations have been set up in the project area. System IV has one 46 Wp module to charge a 12-yolt (100 AH) battery which runs the same type and number of appliances as in System III. In System V, two 46 Wp modules charge two 12-volt (100 AH) batteries which light one 8-watt and two 13watt fluorescent tubes and also run one fan and one TV/VCR

Under this project, PV systems have been installed at one rural health clinic for running fans, lights and a refrigerator.

As the first solar system (system-V) was installed on 3rd August 1996, it is now too early to make any firm comment on the systems. Assessment to date indicates that, in respect of system reliability, System-V is the most preferred option followed by System-II and System-1V. System-I with the initial design was not acceptable. Although System-III provides greater load facilities than System-II, the demand for the former is much less than the latter because of transportation hazards of two batteries.

Some kind of solar culture has already caught up in the area. Some consumers have already made comments saying that their PV systems are better than the grid, because the entire system is under their control and there is no fear of unwanted blackout because of load shedding. They know how to plan the duration of different appliances to get the maximum benefits.

Watching TV run by solar PV at Karimpur, Narsingdi
Watching TV run by solar PV at Karimpur, Narsingdi

The Karimpur, the Natun Bazar and the Alipur charging stations have been in operation since 18 January 1997, 3 February 1997 and 6 March 1997 respectively. As stated, it is too early to make any definite comment on these charging stations. However, for better functioning of the systems and more satisfaction of the consumers, the following observations are in order:

  • REB/PBS personnel placed at the charging stations need be properly trained on the installation, operation and maintenance of all the components of solar systems.

  • It is suggested that arrangement be made to train up these personnel together with some rural unemployed youths. Providing training to the local youths will help manpower development for better technical backup service, create more job opportunities (self-employment) and

  • Since the same battery is circulated among the different consumers, the maintenance of the batteries is severely affected, so much so that within one year more than 100 batteries have been put out of commission. As per specification, the durability of these batteries is 3-5 years.

  • It is suggested that, in order to cheek this bad maintenance, batteries with code numbers be assigned to individual consumers. M/S Rahim. Afrooz have supplied batteries to replace the damaged ones.

  • Hand/head carrying of batteries containing sulfuric acid weighing about 15 kgs is sort of hazardous and a kind of drudgery. This is disliked by the consumers.

  • ARMCO has suggested to design a special bicycle capable of carrying 8 batteries in a single trip. This bicycle may be tried.

  • NPB5-1 should arrange for collection of complaints of consumers through formats and the personnel placed at the concerned charging stations must attend the complaints the same day.
  • Fortnightly visits to the project areas by a team consisting of representatives of REB, NPI1SA, BCAS and ARMCO will help quicken the settlement of the complaints made by the consumers.

  • In order to improve the bill collection, it is suggested that the concerned PBS personnel visit the project areas during the first week of the month for the collection of bills with prior information. If the consumers fail to clear the dues during the visits, they (consumers) have to come. to the NPIIS-1 office at Madhabdi to make the payment.

  • One Consumer Board consisting of local elites under each charging station may be formed. This board is expected to help cheek misuse of batteries and settle local social problems.

  • Solar electricity is different from grid electricity in that the consumers know what amount of electricity they have in their possession and they must ration the consumption out. With solar electricity, there is no fear of unpredictable outage.

BCAS is maintaining an office at Karimpur to monitor the functioning of the solar PV systems and disseminate other renewable energy technologies.

With the financial support from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, a survey is now being conducted by BCAS to study the workability and acceptability of the PV systems.

An MOU has recently being signed between BCSIR and BCAS to intensify the R&D activities in the project area and other places of the country.

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