First ever solar-power project solely executed by locals

By Phurpa Wangmo

In the very first of its kind, the 180 kilowatt solar plant at Ruebisa in Wangdue was solely executed by local contractors and no foreigner’s specialist were involved in the project.

The supply, installation and commissioning of the pilot solar project was supposed to be completed within four months. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and recurrent lockdowns, there was a delay in the supply of materials. As a result, it took around seven months to complete.

The 180Kw will produce estimated annual energy production of 273,000 KWh.

The four local technicians who were involved with the project said they received their training virtually from their partner Sungarnar private limited. The four experts then trained Department of Renewal Energy (DRE) and Bhutan Power Corporation technical who were also involved in the pilot project.

The head of Renewable Energy Division (RED), BPCL in Wangdue said that they are happy that Bhutanese can also do the project without specialists from outside.

“The pilot project is a platform where we learn and grow. We are not going to discard the project in future whether it does well or not. Further, we will try to implement the experiences we learnt from this project,” saidWangchuk, head of RED Wangdue.

Around 10 engineers and technicians were involved from the DRE and BPC while local contractors were involved in designing, constructing, installing and grid integration works among others.

Damber Gurung, the Chief Operating Officer of Ngawang Builders said, “They are glad to have participated in the first pilot project which was successfully completed by local technicians.”

He added that they were trained virtually since their partners couldn’t come to Bhutan due to pandemic.

Damber hopes that they would even do better with the experience they learnt from this project.

The project was executed by the Department of Renewable Energy in collaboration with the Bhutan Power Corporation. It received funding support from the Japanese government and was supported by the United Nations Development Programme in Bhutan.

In 2019, the International Renewable Energy Agency carried out a Renewable Readiness Assessment of Bhutan. Its report pointed out the vulnerabilities of hydropower to climate change, as changing river flow affects electricity generation and extreme weather events such as cloudbursts and glacial lake outburst floods can damage dams.

In light of the environmental impacts of hydropower and fossil fuels, the authors called for investment in multiple sources of renewable energy.

BPC officials said that the renewable energy sector has great potential to provide green jobs, in addition to supplying energy during the winter months or lean seasons, when Bhutan imports energy from India.

The country imported electricity worth Nu 180.7 million (USD 2.4 million) from India in 2020 which is just a slight decrease from BTN 222 million in 2013.

Earlier this week the Chairperson of the National Council, Lyonpo Tashi Dorji, inaugurated the 180 kW grid-tied ground mounted solar photo-voltaic power plant.

The inauguration was also attended by the Ambassador of Japan to Bhutan, Satoshi Suzuki (virtually), UNDP Resident Representative Azusa Kubota, representatives from the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), Department of Renewable Energy (DRE), Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC), the Local Government and other power sector agencies.

The Ambassador of Japan to Bhutan, Satoshi Suzuki, who addressed the gathering virtually, said he hoped that the solar project would help enhance Bhutan’s energy security, which is indispensable for the socio-economic development of the country.

“I hope that these solar photo-voltaic facilities will be effectively used for many years to come,” he said. “I also hope that the support provided by the people and the Government of Japan to realize this project will further augment the friendship between our two countries,” the ambassador said.

The UNDP Resident Representative, Azusa Kubota, also said UNDP sees renewable energy solutions as a lifeline to save our planet and humanity and that it must be an integral part of every nation’s green recovery effort from the COVID-19 pandemic.

She added that the recently held UN-led High-level dialogue on energy was a clear reflection of this growing realization that the pandemic must be used as an opportunity to build back better and greener.

“The energy sector accounts for 73 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emission globally, she said.

The pilot 180kW solar photovoltaic (PV) project is a grid-tied, ground-mounted system and employs local contractors and workers.

The project is innovative and transformational, and key stakeholders said the project will contribute towards enhancing Bhutan’s energy security, help generate green services and jobs, and demonstrate viability of solar energy.

It is also expected to catalyse additional investments in solar PV systems and promote downstream industry in solar PV and accessories manufacturing in the future.

The solar PV power project, supported by UNDP is funded by the Government of Japan under the “Innovation for a smarter, greener and more resilient 21st Century Bhutan”. It is implemented by DRE through Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC).

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