World's largest solar park to light up Pakistan's future

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by Neo, Sep 8, 2015.

  1. Neo

    Neo Senior Member Senior Member

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    World's largest solar park to light up Pakistan's future
    Dawn.com

    [​IMG]
    Entrance to Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Park - Photo courtesy Zofeen T. Ebrahim.

    Some 400,000 solar panels, spread over 200 hectares of flat desert, glare defiantly at the sun at what is known as the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Park (QASP) in Cholistan Desert, Punjab, named after Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

    The 100MW photovoltaic cells (PV) solar farm was built by Chinese company Xinjiang SunOasis in just three months, and started selling electricity to the national grid in August.

    This is the first energy project under the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of China’s ‘new silk road’, linking the port at Gwadar in southern Pakistan with Kashgar in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

    The 100MW plant is the pilot stage of a more ambitious plan to build the world’s largest solar farm. Once completed in 2017, the site could have capacity of 5.2 million PV cells producing as much as 1,000MW of electricity – enough to power about 320,000 households. Construction of the next stage is already underway, led by another Chinese company Zonergy.

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    One of the main access roads inside QASP - Photo courtesy Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Ltd.

    Eighteen months ago, the site was nothing more than wilderness. Now a mini city has emerged in the middle of the desert, with over 2,000 workers accompanied by heavy machinery, power transmission lines, blocks of buildings, water pipes and pylons.

    Reducing emissions, providing livelihoods

    The Cholistan desert is an ideal spot for solar power, said Muhammad Hassan Askari, operating manager of the solar park. The area gets 13 hours of sunlight every day while the huge expanse of flat desert is ideal for a large commercial project like this one.

    The big advantage of solar power, he said, is that a large park can be completed faster than thermal or hydropower projects, which take much longer and require a lot of maintenance.

    The solar park will also shrink Pakistan’s carbon footprint, said Najam Ahmed Shah, the chief executive officer of QASP, displacing about 57,500 tonnes of coal burn and reducing emissions by 90,750 tonnes every year.

    [​IMG]
    An aerial view of QASP. - Photo courtesy Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Ltd
    .
    Pakistan aims to reduce its reliance on hydrocarbons, especially imported coal, oil and gas, to around 60 per cent by 2025 from the present 87pc. The country has a target to produce 10pc of its total energy mix from renewable sources (excluding hydro-power, which already constitutes 15pc of the total energy mix). The current generation from renewable energy is around 1-2pc.

    While Pakistan contributes less than 1pc to global Green House Gas (GHG) output, the country’s carbon emissions are growing by 3.9pc a year. By 2020 it will spew out 650 million tonnes of Co2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) if the current trend continues, said climatologist Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, the UN secretary general’s special advisor for Asia with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

    The solar park will also eventually generate 15,000 to 33,000 jobs for locals and attract investment to the region.

    Unprecedented scale

    Some experts worry the project is too ambitious. Former director general of WWF-Pakistan Ali Hassan Habib, who now runs a company providing rooftop solar solutions, welcomed the project but was uneasy about the government “jumping into untested scale”. The plant will be double the size of the existing largest solar PV generating facilities worldwide, he said.

    “It may have been better to build the equivalent remaining 900MW closer to where electricity is consumed — on say the rooftops of large parking lots — rather than installing it in remote locations,” he said.

    Environmental impact of clean energy

    Because solar energy is still finding a foothold in the energy mix and technologies are evolving, not enough is known about the park’s impact on the environment and natural resources.

    [​IMG]
    An aerial view of QASP. - Photo courtesy Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Ltd.

    Some negative impacts have already become apparent. For example, solar power consumes lots of water. PV panels may require little maintenance, according to QASP, but they need to be kept squeaky clean. An estimated one litre of water is used to clean each panel. Water consumed to clean the eventual 5.2 million panels built will be colossal for a country that is fast becoming water stressed. Currently, 30 people take 10 to 15 days to clean the 400,000 cells.

    “This year we’ve been very lucky as there have been unprecedented rains and so panels were cleaned automatically,” said Askari, who said they were looking for more efficient ways to clean panels.

    At the same time, increasing human activity will disturb the arid region’s rich biodiversity and wildlife, such as the Indian gazelle, caracal cat and houbara bustard.

    The construction of a new road network and supporting commercial activities associated with large solar PV projects do leave a substantial “footprint” on the land, agreed Habib.

    Shah justified the project, saying it was built on “uninhabited” “waste” land. “An Initial Environmental Examination was carried out and we got a nod from the Environment Protection Department before embarking upon the project,” he explained.

    To offset any negative impact, Habib suggested the government set up an “environment and social fund”.

    Environmentalists are also concerned about the fate of the millions of PV panels which will wear out within 25 years. The panels will have to be recycled to extract the silicon used to make them, and then replaced.

    Pakistan’s energy crisis

    Pakistan has been in the grip of severe energy shortages for many years with some rural areas left without power for up to 20 hours a day. There has been little local or foreign investment in the industrial sector because of the extensive power cuts, and a number of factories have had to close down.

    [​IMG]
    An aerial view of QASP. - Photo courtesy Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Ltd.

    With an installed electricity generation capacity of 22,797MW, the country’s total production stands at just 14,000MW. In recent years, demand has risen to 19,000MW.

    While the 1,000MW of solar energy will help ease energy constraints, Askari said government investment in several other hydropower and coal projects should also help alleviate power shortages.

    Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised power cuts would end by 2018 at the inauguration ceremony of 100MW solar project in May, earlier this year.

    Not everyone is happy

    But some critics say it is the investors who will get rich from the solar project, while consumers will have to pay more in the long run.

    “Hydropower can produce energy for less than half the price of solar and about the same as wind so why a fixation on solar?” said an Islamabad-based energy expert working with the government, who spoke to thethirdpole.net on the condition of anonymity.

    He is sceptical of solar for a number of reasons.

    First, the solar farm will actually produce far less than the much touted 1,000MW of electricity. “On average, solar power plants deliver only about 20pc of installed capacity, and the peak production is during the day, while the peak demand is in the evening when the plant does not produce anything,” the expert pointed out.

    [​IMG]
    Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Park - Photo courtesy Zofeen T. Ebrahim.

    Alternative arrangements have to be made to draw upon hydro or thermal sources at an “extra cost”. But the project’s owners say the 100MW solar plant could produce near to capacity at 85MW at its peak.

    Second, solar energy is more expensive than other energy sources. QASP claims it is selling solar power to the grid at $0.14 per unit. Sources within the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) say they have signed a deal to buy electricity at $0.24 per unit, which will drop later to perhaps $0.17 per unit after a period of seven years when loans are paid off. In either case, this price is far higher than the $0.07 for hydropower, $0.11 for fuel oil and $0.12 for imported LNG.

    “And these figures are only for generation; another 25pc must be added to it for cost of delivery to be borne by the consumer, accounting for losses and theft,” he pointed out.

    “The financial justification for solar was approved when oil prices were at $110 a barrel,” he said, lamenting that the government refused to heed to advice that oil prices would drop.

    Others argue that solar prices will fall over time, making it competitive. Vaqar Ahmed, deputy executive director at the Islamabad-based think tank, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, said: “For every new technology the fixed costs are higher in the initial years and diminish over time as economies of scale are achieved.” And learning from China, efficiency will rise and prices for solar cells will continue to fall, he said.

    Wind could be a much bigger contributor to Pakistan’s energy need, said WWF’s Habib, given its potential of 120,000MW. “Unlike solar, wind energy maintains production at night,” he pointed out.

    Political risks

    With just a little over two years left in his term, the success of the solar project is important for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

    “The project has huge political implications for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N),” said Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) M Hassan Malik, who is responsible for the security arrangements of the entire QASP area.

    [​IMG]
    An aerial view of QASP. - Photo courtesy Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Ltd.

    ”Through this project the government also wants to send out the message to the outside world that it has the capacity to undertake mega projects and will provide foolproof security to investors.”

    Working in an area known as a hotbed of criminals and extremists, Malik’s job is challenging. “Not only is the park a national asset, we have foreign nationals working at the plant, so the sensitivity is two-fold,” he said.

    There are 800 to 900 men guarding the site, where around 400 Chinese workers and over 2,000 labourers work at any given time.

    Cultural shock

    For Alexander Halbich, a German engineer who has been at the park for over a year, getting used to “gun-toting” security men following him around was most disconcerting aspect of his new job. “The food is good, the people are extremely hospitable and we do go out to the city once in a while tailed by armed guards, but there is little to do after dark,” he added.

    “There isn’t much to do in the evenings,” agreed Muhammad Hasan Askari, who heads the technical team. Hailing from Lahore, he keeps himself busy with work and looks forward to going home at the weekends.

    Foreign workers get to go home less often. “I go every three months for ten days or more,” said Zhang Ting, a young Chinese engineer. “I’m quite ready to go home by two months but when I do go back, I miss Pakistan and the work,” she added.

    Ting had to deal with a language barrier and hostile weather when she arrived to work at the site. The Chinese engineer also had to adjust to a “whole new work culture”.

    “We resolved the issue by getting more Pakistanis on our design team to crease out the differences and conflicts,” she said.

    [​IMG]
    View of the infrastructure developed alogside the solar park to connect it to the national grid. -Photo courtesy Zofeen T. Ebrahim.


    http://www.dawn.com/news/1205484/
     
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  3. ezsasa

    ezsasa Senior Member Senior Member

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    200 Hectares(2000 acres) should give about 500 MW(5-10% variance) as a thumb rule. approx 4 acres of PV cells should give 1MW. There seems to be 400 MW missing.

    F.Y.I @Neo this is NOT Trolling, you can check the numbers on solar related websites.
     
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  4. Neo

    Neo Senior Member Senior Member

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    I know that, there's a lot of controvercy around this park.
    We're also discussing it in my forum.
    Will share info as soon as I get some.
     
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  5. Neo

    Neo Senior Member Senior Member

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    The question is if the area will be expanded beyond 200 hectares or not.
    That's what I am trying to find out.
     
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  6. jouni

    jouni Senior Member Senior Member

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    Nice to see Pakistan taking this kind of initiatives in sustainable future. Energy efficiency and self-sufficiency is one key factors of competitivness in the future. I have heard that Pakstan is taking big steps in building innovation driven economy.
     
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  7. blueblood

    blueblood Senior Member Senior Member

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    @Neo , Nice effort but claiming it to be the world's largest is a tad optimistic and possibly misleading.

    India to build world's largest solar power plant in Rajasthan at 4000 MW.

    Development of 1000 MW Solar Park in Andhra Pradesh by SECI & APIIC

    On topic: If fructified it could be a stepping stone to major power generation efforts in Pakistan.
     
  8. bengalraider

    bengalraider DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

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    I'm just happy that the subcontinent is moving towards independence from fossil fuels and into a greener future.
    Good going Pakistan!
    There are a number of steps being taken on this side of the fence as well. I think the best is a diktat by NAMO to cover the roofs of all government owned buildings with photovoltaic panels.
     
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  9. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    ^^^ And I am disappointed that many people buy this solar energy BS :tsk:
     
  10. bengalraider

    bengalraider DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

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    Floating wind power stations are also being looked at as is tidal and micro hydel.
    Solar works only as a filler we shall still need more reactors to make up the bulk.
     
  11. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    Why because you buy the global warming BS? Do you know how costly solar power plants are? You think we can afford them?

    Anyway, here is a link on this issue, go through it. Indians have been brainwashed so much in schools that we are naturally skeptical of Global warming hoax, but trust me, its BS.

    http://www.friendsofscience.org/index.php?id=3


    We should be going Nuclear, which is actually feasible and safe and cheap and clean
     
  12. ezsasa

    ezsasa Senior Member Senior Member

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    What do you mean Global warming is BS? I am definitely interested to know why do you think Global warming is BS.
     
  13. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    Did you go through the link I posted? It actually lays out the arguments against man made global warming.

    Also, there have been many incidents of global warming and cooling in the past, when there was no man to cause any of it. Latest cooling was during the plastocene, or the last ice age 10000 years ago when mammoth roamed among us. So what caused the ice age to end and the present inter glacial period to begin? Surely it cant be that Humans were polluting the earth at the time? Also, ever since the last ice age, the earth has been warming up gradually with relative cool periods( like the medival periods, which forced the vikings out of scandinavia into raiding looting the present day europe) interlaced between. There was no industrial revolution at that time now was there?

    And the most importantly, there has been no consistent corelation(yes thats right, no corelation, and I have not even ventured into the causation part ) between CO2 levels and the temperature of the earth. Also, the most important green house gas in the atmosphere is H20, or water wapor and not CO2. So man made CO2 change is not going to cause catastrophic changes in the atmostphere.

    Even the scientists have not settled on whether "man made climate change" is true.

    Note that I am not talking about pollution - emitting soot and carbon and dust into the air is pollution. I am not going to deny that urbanisation and industrialisation cause pollution. No. What I am talking about is climate change caused by man made CO2 emissions.

     
  14. ezsasa

    ezsasa Senior Member Senior Member

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    So let me get this right!!!! you are saying pollution is caused by industrialisation and urbanisation, but you are not accepting that climate change is not because of man made Co2 emissions. Then for this argument sake let's forget Co2, would you be willing to accept the argument that Climate change is due to human causes?

    And by the way patrick moore is discredited now a days, i think this has something to do with monsanto. seemingly intelligent explanations are being made on both sides of the argument.
     
  15. rock127

    rock127 Maulana Rockullah Senior Member

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    Worlds Largest? :hmm:

    I checked the wiki and this Paki solar plant is at # 34 with 100 MW of operational plants list.

    US has top 4 ranging from 458-597 MW and India at #5 with 345 MW.Also India has 5 plants in top 30 with over 100 MW.In another "Under Construction plants" list, India has massive 10,000/7500/4000/2000 MW plants to be made which is in top 5 largest.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_photovoltaic_power_stations

    Let's discuss it here asap.
     
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  16. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    If you cook with wood inside your house , it will fill your house with smoke, CO2 and some poisonous gases like CO. But when that reaches the air, its concentration becomes so minuscule to affect the climate in any meaningful way. Thats my position now.

    Yes, there are good arguments on the both sides and the science has not been settled in the one side or the other. But I can safely say that the global warming alarmists must take a hike or keep their mouth shut till the science is clear that global warming is indeed caused by man made changes.

    And when you ask global warming due to Human causes, name the other gases which humans emit in significant amount other than CO2 which can even be potentially called as having any potential for global warming in any meaningful scale?
     
  17. ezsasa

    ezsasa Senior Member Senior Member

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    Co2 emissions are only one part of the story, the other part of story is deforestation. earth's ability to process Co2 is definitely hampered by reduction in forested areas. also to be noted is that 70% of oxygen generated is from oceans, we don't even know how much of this ability has been affected.

    But let's keep science and statistics aside, are you telling me that you have noticed no change in environment between your childhood and now. i have lived both in villages and urban areas both in childhood and now, my childhood village which is far away from any urban area is a lot hotter now than i remember.

    i am not even counting Bangalore and Hyderabad, both have changed a lot due to urbanisation. i remember bangalore when it used to have light showers almost every other day in evenings through out the year just 12-15 years back and we never used to sweat in Hyderabad 12 years back. Now both cities have more or less the same climate, which is hot and humid.

    My point is climate has definitely changed a lot, also i do not believe humans can do anything meaningful to undo the damage. Irrespective of what happens to the climate, one this is for sure is that we humans keep adapting to changes.
     
  18. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    Forests cover a very little part of the land surface which in turn form less than 25% of the total surface of the earth.

    70% of the o2 generated is from oceans and so the 70% of the CO2 processed by the oceans.

    Anyway,, I dont know on what universe nuclear power plants or coal is supposed to be less friendly to the forests compared to the Solar power plants considering solar power plants occupy a lot of land, which has to be created from forests of erstwhile forests.


    Are you serious? Seriously, anecdotes? Let me counter it any way. Are you telling me that the last Ice age(pliestocene era) dint happen? Or that the earth got warmer because the ancient Humans 10000 years ago started industrial revolution?

    It can also be due to over crowding. Again Pollution not the same as Climate change. Do you know that the Earth's atmospheric temperature has not actually risen in the past three decades? This is from the Climate change believers.


    First we need to actually establish that Humans are what is causing the climate change. Earth has undergone 33 previous cycles of ice age and global warming before Humans in their ape form even appeared in the world. It must take massive amount of self ego on the part of Humans to assume that their pitiful existence on planet earth can cause such catastrophic changes to something as massive as the environment. Even if I have to take it that they are indeed capable of doing something that massive, they still have to provide proof that they are doing it.

    If it is indeed proven that Humans are the ones causing the environmental change, then we can debate it.

    While at it, the CO2 emissions of the developing world is not even remotely close to that of the developed countries. So while those rich countries got rich by using cheap energies and cheap fossil fuels, our brilliant people here want to use extremely costly, to the point of being suicidally costly, solar energy for their industries. Its not exactly a smart thing to do in this age of globalised economy and competitive pricing for our exports.

    No seriously, we dont even have to debate on whether we should burn the fossil fuels or not. Even if Man made climate change is real, Indians and other developing world owes shit to the other developed countries to reduce our emissions. We have more important things like saving our people from poverty to worry about. And that needs cheap and reliable electricity sources like Nuclear energy and coal, not expensive garbage like Solar energy.
     
  19. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    @ezsasa go through the video about forests and trees
     
  20. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

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    Last month I was in Neemuch and had the opportunity to visit the 151 MW solar plant of Welspun India. At this moment this is the largest single solar plant in India. This is spread over 600 acres of rocky terrain, which cannot be used for agricultural purpose. Welspun is also developing a 350 MW plant in Tamil Nadu which should be up by the middle of the next year.

    The article in the OP has a few glaring in accuracies. A 100 MW plant will produce closer to 85 MW and not 20MW as suggested and also it does not require the kind of water the article suggests.

    However for Pakistan a 1000 MW solar plant which will be around 10% of it's current production will make their grid very lopsided, because of the very nature of the solar plant. This is not a plant which will produce electricity on demand and puts a lot of strain on the grid. at times of peak production of the solar plant if the demand in the grid is low then other conventional plants have to be shut down and restarted later. This is a costly affair. Industry cannot run on this solar power.

    Also the costs mentioned in that article for the solar power seem to be very high. In India the new plants coming up through competitive bidding are quoting around Rs. 5.5 per KWh and are predicted to go below Rs 5 next year.

    Looking at Pakistan they should invest more on Hydro power, which is cheaper in the long run.

    I do not know about the status of wind power in Pakistan, maybe @Neo can shed some light on this.
     
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  21. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

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    BTW India has an alternate system which is working very well. Till August the Government was able to replace conventional and CFL bulbs by over 10 Million LED bulbs, which is equivalent to a 500 MW power plant.
     

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