Balochistan’s renewable energy resources

Lack of sufficient energy resources is the main constraint in the economic development of Balochistan. The traditional methods are not sufficient to meet pressing energy demands. Thermal energy resources are expensive and environmentally unsafe.

The province is rich in renewable energy (RE) resources, which must be exploited for sustainable development of the province.

Northern Balochistan has tremendous potential for development of horticulture, particularly the fruit farms. Thousands tons of apples are exported each year from the province. Regular and sustainable supply of electricity is essential to enhance production and export of quality fruits. The local growers of fruits are facing electricity load shedding and power fluctuation in the province.

Balochistan’s solar energy potential needs to be exploited fully in view of the growing energy demand. Solar energy is the most reliable and abundantly available renewable source. The province has an average daily global insulation of 19 to 20 million joules/m2 a day with an annual mean sunshine duration of 8- 8.5 hours. These values are among the highest in the world. For daily global radiation of up to 23 million joules/m2, 24 (80 per cent) consecutive days are available in this area. Sunrays are highest in the province, as annual average mean daily solar radiation is at 5.9-6.2KWh/sq.m. Such data is ideal for PV and other solar energy applications. The need is to take advantage of solar technologies to meet the challenge of electricity deficit. The solar thermal devices have greater scope in the province for power generation. Generally, solar thermal power plants use parabolic trough and dish sterling technologies.

Solar parabolic trough consists of curved mirrors, which form troughs that focus the sun’s energy at 30-60 times its normal intensity on a pipe. A fluid is circulated through the pipes, which is then used to generate stream, which powers a turbine that drives an electric generator.

On the other hand, the dish sterling concentrating solar power unit uses a mirror in the shape of a dish to collect and concentrate the sun’s energy onto a small area where a receiver is located. The receiver transfers the solar energy to a sterling cycle engine that converts it into power.

Alternative energy development board (AEDB) is carrying out many RE projects in remote areas of the province for the past many years. The AEDB’s village electrification program through solar energy could not fully be implemented in the province due to the financial constraint.

Established as an autonomous body in 2003, AEDB is working for development of RE technologies. It has been mandated to ensure five percent of total national power generation capacity to be generated through energy technologies by the year 2030.

Solar energy-based projects are eco-friendly and sustainable. Electricity generation through solar thermal power plants is considered by most as an economical and cost-effective energy source, since there is no fuel cost.

Solar thermal power plants produce electricity in much the same way as conventional power station. The difference is that they obtain their energy input by concentrating solar radiation and converting it to high temperature steam or gas to drive a turbine or engine. Solar power plants can simultaneously produce electricity, provide cooling by means of an absorption chiller, generate industrial processing steam, and produce drinking water with a seawater desalination plant.

From an economic point of view, the solar thermal power plants will reduce the dependency on fossil fuels in remote areas. The operation and maintenance cost is nominal, compared to conventional power plants.

Moreover, these plants will also avoid the risk of future electricity cost escalation. They are not only emissions-free in nature, but are also ideally suited to reduce green house gases and other pollutants.

Under the remote village electrification program, AEDB plans to bring in use solar energy technologies to electrify 300 villages, which have been identified in the province for solar homes.

Under the AEDB’s electrification program, 6968 remote villages in Balochistan will be electrified through solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the next 20 years.

A solar home costs Rs.100,000 but a solar energy system can be installed with one-time expenditure and the system needs no additional expenditure for years, according to the experts.

Though AEDB was all set to launch RE projects identified for the province in the last fiscal year, yet the federal government had not yet released the funds.

The approved cost for RE projects in PC-I for northern, southern and central Balochistan was Rs308.96 million, Rs280.30 million and Rs316.43 million, respectively. An amount of Rs100 million was given to AEDB in March 2007 from the Khushal Pakistan program, against the allocated Rs592.18 million. The lack of funds caused delay in implementation of AEDB’s approved projects in northern, southern, and central parts of the province by one year and the board could only start its projects in Sindh.

AEDB has already completed topographic survey of target villages in southern, central, and northern Balochistan, yet it has been a cash-strapped and hence could not undertake installation of solar systems in the remote areas of the province.

In February 2008, AEDB was able to open its project offices in Balochistan after it received Rs100 million from the federal government. In the last fiscal year, AEDB hoped a release of Rs250 million for carrying out its village electrification program through solar energy in the province, but the amount is still awaited.

All the RE projects, being undertaken by AEDB in the country, are financed by federal government through public sector development program (PSDP) allocation.

In the fiscal year 2004-05, 121 houses were electrified through solar energy in Allah Baksh Bazar Dandar village in Turbat district.

In the fiscal year 2005-06, 100 houses at Takht village in district Kalat and Kili Mama Macherzai village in district Killa Saifullah were electrified through solar PV. Solar energy systems are working effectively and supplying power to beneficiaries in remote areas where use of fuel-wood has been common.

Under village electrification program, clean drinking water will be provided through use of solar water disinfector and solar cooker will also be used to avoid unnecessary cutting of trees in rural areas.

The National Institute of Silicon Technology (NIST) has developed mathematical models that give the solar insulation values at any time on any surface inclination.

Need is to promote the use of solar energy and to strengthen its technology base so as to allow this source of alternative energy achieve its full potential and contribute towards meeting the provincial electricity needs.