Solar measuring station starts operation

LAHORE: Pakistan's first solar measuring station to gather radiation data has commenced its operation in the neighbourhood of Bhawalpur district, a step towards compiling a national solar atlas.

The inaugural ceremony was held on Monday at Quaid-e-Azam (QA) Solar Park.

This is one of nine solar measuring stations to be installed across Pakistan as a part of the World Bank-funded renewable energy resource mapping and geospatial planning project with a financial outlay of $1.96 million.

Pakistan has more than 300 sunny days and one of best solar resource. However, enormous solar energy has yet to be tapped to meet burgeoning power demand. So far, only around 24 independent power producers – having 792.99 megawatts production capacity – are in different stages of development.

The nine solar measuring stations are being established in Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Karachi, Hyderabad, Bahawalpur, Nokundi and Multan.

Resource mapping and geospatial planning for solar, wind and biomass will be done through a global initiative being led by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program.

According to a World Bank document, the project is being formally launched to speed up the expansion of sustainable renewable power generation with the support of the World Bank and ESMAP's renewable energy resource mapping Initiative to help improve the country's knowledge and awareness of solar, wind and biomass energy resources.

All components of the solar measuring project – ground-based data collection, mapping, strategic environmental assessment, and developing policy recommendations – will be carried out based on ESMAP's term of references and approved suppliers to ensure quality. For wind and solar, wind masts and pyranometers will be installed.

With installation of high-quality solar stations and a calibration station, the activity will collect, process and analyse resource data.

The equipment being installed will measure three types of solar radiation (direct normal, global horizontal, and diffuse), along with temperature, air pressure and wind speed.

The data is transmitted automatically to a central server, and will be made available for free by the World Bank for use by government and private investors.

The nine measuring stations will be operated for the World Bank for two years, with the data then used to produce a validated, high quality solar atlas for the entire country.

The World Bank is also developing a wind and a biomass atlas as part of the bank's project.

The Commissioner Bahawalpur presided over the inauguration ceremony of the station's operation. Representatives from the World Bank, Alternative Energy Development Board, solar power park and various other dignitaries and stakeholders attended the ceremony.

Oliver Knight, representative of the World Bank, said the solar measuring station is ‘high precision' grade; the second high precision station will be installed at the NUST campus in Islamabad.

The other seven sites will receive standard measurement stations more suitable for remote regions and require less maintenance.

Najam Ahmed Shah, chief executive officer at QA Solar Power Pvt Ltd, promised to extend assistance in the maintenance of the station, apart from nominating QA engineers to act as focal persons for technical co-ordination.

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