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Strategy for utilising solar energy

July 31, 2012

WE have got an immense resource in the form of sunshine for generating solar energy in Pakistan but this resource is going to waste. Just think of the European countries where sunlight is hardly available, even then, those countries are putting it to gainful use.

The basic unit to generate this energy is a solar panel on which solar cells are pasted (say 50 to 100 of them). All these cells are interconnected. When sunlight falls on these cells, electrons get agitated and start moving in a certain direction. This movement of electrons is nothing but electric current.

As these solar panels would be required in huge numbers (millions of them) to produce solar energy in a big way, the quantity of solar cells would run into billions. Naturally, such a huge quantity of cells can’t be imported as their import wouldn’t be cost - effective. Hence, there’s no other option but to produce these cells locally.

The raw material for solar cells (quartz and silica) is available in Pakistan. Quartz is available in abundance in our northern areas. Local people have been seen using this raw material in raising the walls of their houses in place of bricks.

As far as silica is concerned, the Indus is full of this raw material. Bulb - manufacturing factories are already using it. We’ve to only import the machinery to convert this raw material to solar cells.

We’ll also require trained manpower to build these cells. The companies which provide machinery are supposed to train manpower as well, free of cost. The manpower which would be deployed for the manufacture of solar cells and solar panels would be available to us maximum for $3 ans hour as compared to $50 an hour in European countries and the US. This cheap manpower is our strength.

We have only one solar-panel (not solar-cells) manufacturing factory in Pakistan which is located at Hattar Industrial Area, about 100km from Islamabad. But, due to non-availability of facilities, this factory is importing solar cells from abroad.

Other main items required to produce a complete solar energy system are tampered glass sheets (on which solar cells are pasted), batteries, DC to AC converters, etc.

We have many glass-manufacturing factories and also innumerable battery-manufacturing factories in Pakistan. Tampered glass sheets and batteries could be produced by these factories with slight upgradation of the existing facilities.

As regards batteries, manufacture of sealed, maintenance-free batteries would be preferred. DC to AC inverters are already being manufactured in the country. There’s no dearth of expertise in this field.

In view of the above, the following recommendations are made:

A firm decision should be taken by the ministry of water and power to use solar energy to its maximum capacity in Pakistan.

A decision be taken to set up factories for manufacturing solar panels and solar cells in the country.

The machinery for manufacturing solar panels and cells be imported from world-renowned companies which have a name in the solar field.

Local manpower for these factories should be inducted purely on merit.  A capable and honest person should head the project.

AIR CDRE (Rtd) AZFAR A KHAN Rawalpindi