In Bangladesh`s solar power sector, Solar Intercontinental Limited (SOLARIC) has been able to garner an unique reputation because of its innovation in developing appropriate technology and its application.
This local renewable energy company, is engaged in manufacturing and marketing of various types of solar energy related products.
Didar Islam, Managing Director of SOLARIC recently sat in an exclusive interview with energynewsbd.com Editor Aminur Rahman to talk about how the expansion of solar power in Bangladesh has taken place.
He is also a governing body member of Bangladesh Energy and Power Research Council (EPRC), a recently conceived state-owned entity to spearhead local research and development with international standard.
energynewsbd.com: Please give a description of your organization’s contribution in the renewable energy sector.
Didar Islam: SOLARIC is a private limited company and it is a high-tech company with the primary objective to innovate new technologies, products and packages in the area of renewable energy and marketing in Bangladesh, as the primary market and then export to other countries worldwide as secondary market. Solar Optimizer (commonly known as “micro-converter”) offers the first and only practical solution in the world that substitutes expensive inverter in solar application.
On May 25, 2011, SOLARIC started its commercial operations. It develops and manufactures third generation (3G) solar home systems (SHS), backup systems and Nano-grid systems.
The company has developed 3G- solar home system (SHS) based on its patented technology (Solar Optimizer) which is the world’s only 120V DC based SHS. This utility level grid-ready DC solution offers all the benefits of an inverter while maintaining the efficiency of DC system.
The result of this intense effort is a family of products, both solar and non-solar applications that include LED based solar home systems for rural (off-grid) areas and LED based lighting systems for semi-urban and urban areas.
Presently, SOALRIC has devoted itself in advanced researches on providing solar solutions to industries at Mega-scale. This new solution called “Mega-rooftop” is a viable alternative to which is distributed in nature and yet could generate substantial energy (more than 50% of the factory demand) newly built residential, commercial and industrial complexes to meet the government requirement of taking 3% to 10% electricity from solar source is a major commitment and social responsibility of the company.
energynewsbd.com: Your company has shown considerable success in establishing mini solar grid at the remote parts of the country? What are the secret behind the success?
Didar Islam: I believe our strong focus in research and development to identify the need and develop appropriate technology in accordance with that has given us a strong footing. Besides, developing strong viable business model is also at the root of SOLARIC growth.
SOLARIC believes that the solar solution is now a commercially viable energy alternative which requires innovation in its application and business model to make it available to consumer in a sustainable manner.
energynewsbd.com: How many mini grids have been established so far and how many consumers are getting benefitted by these? What are the advantages you provide in establishing mini grid?
Didar Islam: Forty Nano-grids have been in operation over the last three years period at different parts of the country in both off-grid and limited grid areas, supplying electricity to more than 1000 homes and shops.
Some of these are pure residential and some are commercial (Market place) where consumers use the Nano-grid as a backup power source instead of diesel generator or IPS.
The main advantage is uninterrupted power supply to the consumer and 24/7 access which not only provides them power when needed, cheaper than other alternatives such as diesel generator or solar home system and also elongates the business hour. We are in the process of installing 500 more such Nano-grids within next two years.
energynewsbd.com: In a bid to popularize the renewable energy, what other products are you providing to your consumers?
Didar Islam: We have three different lines of products which are 3G-Solar (solar home system up to 100 Watt), Nano grid (3KW) and industrial Mega Rooftop (500 KW). All of these products are viable solutions which do not require any cash subsidy or incentive from government.
energynewsbd.com: The number of installations of solar home system is reduced down in recent times. A main reason behind this is that the government is supplying electricity from national grid to almost 80% areas of the country. What lies in the future of SHS under the circumstances?
Didar Islam: I disagree strongly with the notion that high rural electrification rate is the main cause of the sudden decline of the penetration of the solar home system in the rural areas.
I think the main reason is that the market is now experiencing a transition from donor-dependent subsidy based program driven by government owned non-bank financial institution- Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) to a more sustainable and commercially viable market. In other words, market has been developed by IDCOL and it is now transitioning into a matured state.
In an open market like that, there remains challenge such as quality, service and consumer credit. It also opens a new opportunity for private sectors to get involve and innovate appropriate solutions as per the customer need.
What we are seeing is not a decline in the demand rather a lack of credible and viable suppliers who can meet the demand in this new space.
Solar home system will soon be popular in the grid areas too which will open new frontier beyond the off-grid market where 25% of the household is already connected with solar home system.
energynewsbd.com: There has been no large scale solar power plant established in the country. Many of the companies signed several agreements with the government? What are the reasons behind this?
Didar Islam: There are many reasons behind the non-completion of mega-projects but the main ones are-unavailability of suitable ‘non-valuable’ land, Lack of credible foreign investment and Greenfield syndrome (barrier to a new system). To implement a sizable renewable energy project in the country, we need to attract foreign investment.