Solar energy offer alternative solutions to rural Myanmar

Solar power can provide electricity for the whole country by 2031, said U Thoung Win, chairman of the Renewable Energy Association Myanmar.

“Solar power takes only one day to install in a house in a province. For a whole village, it takes about a month. We are now trying to install power systems that operate on the megawatt level instead of the kilowatt level,” he said.

As Myanmar’s electricity deficit worsens, the country is in need of alternative energy, U Thoung Win said.

Industrial zones in Pakokku, Myingyan, Mandalay and Taunggyi will easily benefit from solar power, he said, because the areas are constantly exposed to sun and heat.

Foreign investors are showing a keen interest in solar power, U Thoung Win said. More than 40 companies, mostly from China, are now importing solar panels.

One drawback to solar power is the high cost. However, the price of solar panels is decreasing. While a 100-watt capable solar panel cost K500,000 three years ago, the same solar panel – about three feet long – costs K150,000.

Another drawback is quality control, U Thoung Win said.

“China’s big companies export solar panels to European countries that have gone through the quality control process. However, with Myanmar, solar panels are coming through the border trade at Shweli. Most of these panels are rejected by the factories or did not pass quality control.

“We need to be careful with that because it can cause major technical issues during installation,” he said.

Solar energy requires a wide space of land, as a one megawatt solar panel needs two acres of space. The most suitable locations for solar power are Bago, Magway and Sagaing regions, he said.

Currently, only 26 percent of the whole country has access to electricity. Among that 26pc, only 4pc in rural areas have access to electricity. Only 3000 villages out of 68,000 have light.