By Staff Reporter
The first-ever 80 KiloWatt (kW) Decentralized Distributed Generation of Solar Photovoltaics (PV) system in the country at Aja Nye, Mongar was virtually launched by Lyonpo Loknath Sharma in presence of community members and partners on December 30, 2022.
The construction of the first Decentralized Solar PV system of 80 KiloWatt (kW) in the rural community of Aja Nye will now benefit 34 households who have lived without electricity till date including thousands of pilgrims who visit annually, states the joint press release.
Kinzang Phuntsho, 30 year-old who is originally from Thiling village is currently serving as Tshogpa for Jabgang-Thiling community. His parents and some of relatives are on retreat at Aja Nye. Kinzang Phuntsho said, “Our village was the last to get electricity under Monger dzongkhag in 2006 but Aga Nye could not have access to it due to its’ location and we thought that we would never have electricity here. However, with this project access to electricity at Aja Nye has been made possible, we are all happy and feel blessed under the great Kings and our government. Now, we feel that our country is developed as remote villages in the country are provided with electricity”.
The nearest road leading to Aja terminates at a place called Yarab, which is 20 km from the Shermuhung gewog center with an additional of 6 hours on foot to reach the community.
Since the community is located in the core zone of the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS) which is one of the protected areas (PAs), the community was largely dependent on fuel-wood for heating and cooking.
Kinzang Phuntsho said that connecting hydropower electricity to Aja Nye will be very expensive and difficult considering its geographical landscape and wildlife habitat protection but with the idea of solar energy, it was possible to have electricity. It makes our work easier, faster and we could have healthy and clean lives.
Kinzang Thukten a resident of Aja Nye said, “We can maintain the cleanliness and personal hygiene without smokes, dust from the stoves and woods. It is more convenient for them to do household chores as it consumes less time”.
“I have lived my entire life here. Even doing daily chores like cooking at home is very hard and old ways. To see the light in my home during my lifetime is something that I never dreamt of, I am very happy,” said Angay Tshering Yangzom, 69 year-old.
This successful Solar PV system is first of its kind and provides an opportunity for replication in other parts of the country. “I have learned so much from this project and now if we replicate this elsewhere, the department can really put an optimized version of this kind of project,” said Galey Dorji, Project Manager, Department of Energy, Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (MoICE).
“It will not only reduce our reliance on fuel woods and traditional lamps, but it will also create employment opportunities and stimulate economic growth through ecotourism in the community,” he added.
Kinzang Thukten said, “He is really happy to receive electricity in his village after ages and with electricity, they feel relieved and safe as they have to work at night sometimes.”
Thukten also added that electricity would benefit those pilgrims who come to visit sacred places of Aja Nye. He expresses his gratitude to His Majesty the King and government for their unwavering support.
Karma Wangdi, 20 year-old said that with the connection of electricity at Aja Nye, it has become convenient for the people in the areas and pilgrims to charge their mobiles as everyone owns mobile phone these days.
The construction, which began in October 20, 2021 and completed on November 30, 2022 which was undertaken by Nawang Builders Private Limited. The project estimated around Nu. 31.5 million.
Aja Ney is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites under Shermuhung gewog in Mongar Dzongkhag. It is located within the core zone of the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS).
“It was a daunting feat that we have accomplished with delicate solar panels which had to be transported on horses’ back entailing longer transportation time than usual. To expedite the work we even resorted to air lifting equipment and panels without considering the cost”, said Karma Wangchuk”, Project Manager, Nawang Builder Private Limited.
However, we are happy to contribute and be part of this project and to see happiness in the eyes of the local residents. It has also been a pleasure to employ and working with them during the project span. It gives us immense privilege to be part of this transformation to alternative renewal energy initiatives of the government. This is the second solar project that we have completed, the first being in Wangdu Phodrang, he added.
With initiation of this project, villagers with money had already bought electric appliances like electric cookers, boilers and others, received donations but there are some without these appliances. However, there were some villagers who were skeptical that solar energy could light the house and support electric appliances.
Kinzang Phuntsho said that with assurances from the government officials visiting the project sites and contractor working for the project instilled confidence that solar powered electric is reality and pragmatic.
He further added, “The immediate improvement that could be seen with the electricity is clean and healthy environment at home in absence of old stove and lamps, cooking time is drastically saved and made easier, with saved time people on retreats and pilgrimages can pray more and even longer time for prayers and meditation with lights at night”. There are more than 50 pilgrims at this time of year, much higher than previous years and I came to know that they had mostly come after knowing connections of electricity at Aja Nye, he added.
A photovoltaic (PV) system is composed of one or more solar panels combined with an inverter and other electrical and mechanical hardware that use energy from the Sun to generate electricity. PV systems can vary greatly in size from small rooftop or portable systems to massive utility-scale generation plants. Although PV systems can operate by themselves as off-grid PV systems, The light from the Sun, made up of packets of energy called photons, falls onto a solar panel and creates an electric current through a process called the photovoltaic effect. Each panel produces a relatively small amount of energy, but can be linked together with other panels to produce higher amounts of energy as a solar array. The electricity produced from a solar panel (or array) is in the form of direct current (DC). Although many electronic devices use DC electricity, including your phone or laptop, they are designed to operate using the electrical utility grid which provides (and requires) alternating current (AC). Therefore, in order for the solar electricity to be useful it must first be converted from DC to AC using an inverter. This AC electricity from the inverter can then be used to power electronics locally, or be sent on to the electrical grid for use elsewhere.
However, Kinzang Phuntsho added, “I have no idea how long the present solar energy electricity project would last but in future if some problems arise, I am very confident that our government would have alternatives to keep the village lighting forever. The immediate difference we could see right now with electricity is, it has made our old parents and villagers lives easier, time saving and has also benefited the pilgrims.
The 80 kW system is constructed and installed at the three sites- Dawathang, Pema Yangdzong and Dungkar Choling with the funding support from Bhutan For Life, Bhutan Foundation, GEF-Small Grants Programme UNDP and implemented by the Department of Energy, Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (MoICE)- then Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Bhutan Ecological Society (BES).