People started thinking about solar technologies in the 1860s. The world’s first rooftop photovoltaic solar array was installed on a New York City roof in 1884.
In fact, solar technologies could not be developed as expected until early 20th century. Solar technologies actually became functional when six houses in North America were entirely heated in 1974. A remarkable change in the energy policy was happened in 1979 when the global energy crisis started. The situation compelled the developed world to renew their attention to improving solar technologies. However, in the 1980s, when the oil price started reducing again, growth of solar power slowed down. After a couple years, the production and usage of solar electricity continued to increase. By 2016, a significant amount of solar power was generated in the world. And as a single country China produced about 30% of the total. At the same time, concentrated solar power (CSP) has also started to grow rapidly. By 2050, 27% of the world’s total electricity generation is expected to come from solar power.
The use of solar power in Bangladesh was started few years back. Solar panels are found on the roofs of many buildings in Dhaka. Once it was, perhaps, mandatory to set up solar panels for the construction of new buildings in Dhaka. However, that trend is rarely visible now. May be that great initiative has lost its momentum due to various reasons. It is said that the programme for compulsory installation of solar power could not continue as it failed to attract people due to very high initial investment. Some people opine that it has faced such consequences due to the lack of good management and proper patronage, though it was a praiseworthy initiative for a country like Bangladesh.
It seems, in addition to the use of solar power in the houses, solar power might be used for other purposes. I have, at all, no idea about solar power generation technologies and its management modalities. But for last few days, this matter has been striking my mind. It might be a dream! Finding no other way, I have decided to share that dream with everybody in the hope that it might draw the attention of our researchers and technologists.
In fact, supply of electricity from the national power grid to the disadvantageous areas of Bangladesh, especially to areas isolated from the mainland, is not an easy task. Until those areas get that advantage, there is no alternative to providing electricity in those areas except generating solar energy locally. Only the government can take the responsibility to implement such plan. In that case, the government itself could undertake necessary projects and distribute solar power among the people of those areas. At the same time, the private sector may also be allowed to generate and distribute solar energy there following government policies and regulations.
There are various types of vessels, like engine powered boat, launch, ship and steamer in our country carrying passengers or goods. Perhaps diesel or kerosene is used as fuel to run those vessels. Instead of using imported fuel, these vessels could run if solar panels are installed on the rooftop of each vessel. However, the generation of solar energy will not be possible if the speed of these vessels creates any obstacle. Above all, it could only be implemented after examining its technical as well as financial aspects.
There are numerous rivers, canals and lakes in Bangladesh. In addition, the Bay of Bengal is on the south. Bangladesh cannot afford to set up solar panels across hundreds of acres of land, like many countries of the world. It might be one of the best ways to meet the demand if electricity could be generated by installing floating solar panels in our rivers, canals, lakes and sea. Obviously, our experts can check the feasibility of this idea.
We know a good number of countries are using sea water after purification. This purification process or treatment is done with the help of solar power. The water of many rivers in Bangladesh, like Buriganga of Dhaka, is so much polluted that water of those rivers can not be called even water. We may think of using solar power in purifying the polluted water of those rivers. However, our country’s experts will be able to say the possibilities of this thought in view of its financial and technical implication. I have just expressed my idea.
People are cutting trees to use woods for cooking as well as other purposes. As a result we are losing our forest area every day. It also badly affects the environment. Still, many trees might be saved if we could introduce solar cookers in the rural areas. For this, we need to make suitable solar cooker. However, the technical aspect lies with the experts.
There are large and medium sized bridges (roads and rail) in our country. Necessary measures can be taken to generate solar power installing solar panels on the outer sides of the bridge. I believe it is possible to produce significant amount of electricity from the solar panels installed on these bridges. And that electricity would not only facilitate the traffic movement on the bridge, but the additional electricity can be transported to the national grid. Apart from this, power generated from the solar panels installed on two sides of our railway lines can be used for train operation as well as other purposes. In that case, we should have either electricity operated trains or the existing trains should be transformed. In the same way, our airports could be brought under such schemes. Concerned authorities of the government might think of these issues. We can recall that solar panels were installed on some of the roads of Dhaka city few years back. But that initiative, perhaps, failed to produce good result due to a number of reasons.
The solar power generation process is completely environment friendly. This process does not make the environment polluted but keeps the environment acceptable to all living things. In other words, this process does not cause any adverse effect on the environment. If we can bring the cost for solar power generation and management within the reach of low income rural people of Bangladesh, then this electricity might bring a great change in their lives and livelihood - that can be said without doubt. And it will make the overall development trends of Bangladesh more dynamic and encouraging.
Reality cannot be run with emotion. But emotion can, sometimes, find something new. The above thoughts about solar energy are entirely my own thoughts. I do not know whether it will, at all, be practically possible to implement. However, I am hopeful that our concerned experts in this field would sincerely look into this matter. May be their efforts could produce a positive result.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary