Home / Energy / Solar power option

Solar power option

Published on 22nd Dec, Edition 51, 2014


Although sufficiently provided with natural resources like water, coal and sunshine, our energy issues remain unresolved even after 67 years of the creation of Pakistan. This has been one of the major failings of our leadership. We have failed to draw a line between pressing national needs and trivial political issues. Leaving the decision of making dams in the hands of divided political leadership is nothing short of suicidal. And suicide we have already committed.

We have rivers capable of producing 50,000 MW of cheap electricity, but end up with hardly 10 percent capacity utilization. We have 185 billion tons of coal but are still far from deciding on the utility level of this natural wealth. Conflicting claims on the efficacy and quality of this reserve is what we come across time and again. We have gone nuclear but are still unable to produce optimum quantity of nuclear civil energy. Wind and sunshine, the nature’s bountiful gifts go waste in the absence of scientifically purposeful utilization. On the green and renewable energy side, solar power remains a neglected option.

The $60 million Chinese funded, 1.8 MW solar power project to lighten (rather enlighten) Islamabad parliament should be a trend-setting development. The government having saved on its future energy bills, should now think of passing the benefits of solar option on to its people by extending the use of solar power to the off-grid household users which comprise 44% of the total population. There are a number of programs on paper to substantially add alternative renewable energy to the grid combined with the tapering down of fossil fuel energy production. By 2030, Pakistan is supposed to produce 10,000 MW of renewable energy. A sizeable portion of this planned addition to the grid should go to solar power. In the existing power mix, the contribution of wind and solar energy is almost negligible.

Table showing Pakistan’s existing power-mix capacity
Fossil Fuel 14,635 64.2
Hydro 6,611 29
Nuclear 1,322 5.8
Others 232 1

While Japan, China, Iran, India and Central Asian countries have been willing to improve Pakistan’s energy supply position, our governance style hardly allows us to give attention to such “mundane” affairs that incidentally are linked to our economic and social uplift. High-pitched political promises made during election campaign are erased from the memory once the entry to power corridors is secured. While Pakistan is naturally suited to wind and solar power projects, little has been done to encourage private sector investment in this promising field of economy.


Solar power is an emerging energy option for the world’s leading industrialized countries with China, Germany, USA and Japan in the lead. According to Wikipedia, the worldwide photovoltaic power capacity grew by 38% in 2013 when the production level went up to 139 GW. Under photovoltaic systems, solar panels are used to produce DC electric power. The corresponding CSP or Concentrated Solar Power systems use solar thermal energy to produce steam. Leading industrial countries have made substantive efforts to add solar power to their grid systems. The details of major world solar plants operating under the two systems are as follows:

Table showing major world solar plants
Arizona Photovoltaic Agua Caliente Solar Project 250MW (up to 290 MW)
California Photovoltaic California Valley Solar Ranch 250MW
China Photovoltaic Golmud Solar Park 200MW
India Photovoltaic Welspun Energy Neemuch 150MW
Arizona Photovoltaic Mesquite Solar Project 150 MW
Germany Photovoltaic Neuhardenberg Solar Park 145 MW
Germany Photovoltaic Templin Solar Park 128MW
France Photovoltaic ToulRosieres Solar Park 115 MW
Ukraine Photovoltaic Perovo Solar Park 100 MW
USA Solar Thermal Solar Energy generating Systems 354 MW
Spain Solar Thermal Solnova Solar Power Station 150 MW
UAE Solar Thermal Shams Solar Power (Phase-1) 100 MW

One encouraging aspect is that the solar power production cost follows a declining pattern over time making the attainment of grid parity easier. Grid parity is the breakeven point of the costs of solar and grid powers. This is easy to achieve in countries with abundant sunshine and higher grid power prices. Pakistan with 320 sunny days a year and 8 hours a day of sunshine is a sure starter for solar energy development projects. Our future energy programs should incorporate solar power as an important component in the national grid system.


Check Also

Pakistan a natural energy corridor

  While geopolitics plays an important role in the prices of energy products, super powers …

Coal power generation in the world

  Coal is a valuable and plentiful natural global resource. Not only does coal provide …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *