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Solar irrigation pumps: Transforming to smart irrigation and improving agriculture in Bangladesh

Solar pump, Solar irrigation pump in Bangladesh (সোলার পাম্প)

About the blog

Md. Ershadullah
I’m working in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency since 2010; specialized in engineering-design, documentation, planning and supervision works. Current Position: Manager, Bengal Solar, Bangladesh.
Schneider Electric

Following Bangladesh’s great achievement in expanding over 4.5 million of solar home systems to provide electricity in rural areas, the World Bank is supporting the government’s effort to install solar-powered irrigation pumps in large scale. Irrigation is mandatory and it plays a vital role in the agriculture of the country which is located in tropical delta. So, there is a huge potential of solar irrigation system in Bangladesh. The cost of technology has reached within the limit for early return of investment, thus it is well suited for the country’s flat terrain and abundant sunshine.

Expansion of solar irrigation is cutting dependency on diesel and electricity. Presently, Bangladesh has above 1.34 million diesel pumps and these consume at least 1 million tons of diesels worth $900 million per year. The government has to provide subsidy to keep its price affordable specially for the farmers.

On the other hand, about 0.32 million of irrigation pumps are run by grid-electricity to irrigate crops on a total of 5.45 million hectares of land in the dry season and approx. 2,000 megawatts of electricity are consumed for irrigating rice fields.

Due to their financial viability and lower cost, now a day an increased number of people are becoming interested in solar irrigation pumps. A farmer has to pay Tk 3,000-Tk 4,000 for each bigha (1 bigha = 33 decimal of land) of land as irrigation charge during Boro (major paddy) season for diesel or electricity run pump, whereas for solar irrigation pumps it is within Tk 2,000-Tk 2,800 (85Tk=1 USD).

The potential of solar irrigation system in Bangladesh is huge and it has also proven as a successful business model. Now a day the average capacity of a solar irrigation pump is 18.5 KW and it can irrigate 18 hectors. A pump of 18.5 kW size is capable of lifting 2500 – 3000 cubic meter of water per day in local solar irradiation condition.

The World Bank along with several other international organizations are supporting the initiative and especially ‘Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL)’ a government owned specialized non-bank financial institution that finances renewable infrastructure projects in Bangladesh. IDCOL works with NGOs, MFIs or private entities, known as partner organizations (POs), to implement the program. Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) now are acting as coordinator of the program.

IDCOL’s (https://idcol.org/home) financial schemes to provide grants for solar powered irrigation pump in a view to reducing dependency on diesel. The grant is 50% of the total project cost and 35 percent as soft loan with an interest rate of only 6 percent and 10 years as tenure. And the equity to be invested by the private sector investor is 15% only.

IDCOL's funding sources:

Grant: BCCRF, KfW, GPOBA, USAID, ADB

Loan: IDA, JICA

Bengal Renewable Energy Ltd. (BREL) a Partner Organization (PO) of IDCOL and a concern of Bengal Group of Industries (https://www.bengalgroup.com/); the Group is recognized as one of the leading and fastest growing industries in Bangladesh having a wide ranges of activities in the field of plastics, chemical & adhesives, paper & packaging, real estate, building materials, food, bank & financial institutions, and power & renewable energy.

BREL with the financial supports of IDCOL has installed 63 large scale solar irrigation pumps, as a cluster based operation in Chuadanga district, located in between 23°22' and 23°50' north latitudes and in between 88°39' and 89°00' east longitudes. In the project area our pumps are opening up a new door for low-cost crop cultivation, particularly for the Boro-paddy, without requiring any fuel. Solar irrigation pumps are also playing vital role in the massive growth of maze, wheat, jute, potato, mustard and vegetables and supporting fisheries in lowland areas as integrated fish-farming as well as commercial fishery based ponds.

Each solar pump consists of:

  • 41.58 KWp Solar PV Array. 126 nos of 330 Wp polycrystalline solar panel. The manufacturer is Ningbo OSDA Solar Co., Ltd http://www.osdasol.com/contact/index
  • An 18.5 KW Solar Submersible Pumping System with MPPT enabled VFD Inverter, DC-AC Protection Devices, Filter for motor, AC-DC power control switches and lightening protection devices. The manufacturer is Nastec srl of Italy. https://nastec.eu/en/
  • A Bore-well of 200 feet (where the well is constructed with 14 inches housing & strainer of uPVC pipes after 24 inches ground-drilling). The average depth of water in the well is approx. 20 feet.
  • Underground buried pipelines for water distributions channels of 4000 feet in 3 or 4 branches with 25 riser valves with air-vents at each delivery points. It’s ensuring most efficient use of water and fertilizer. Also it is eliminating hassles of digging canals through crop-field, which is increasing the area of cultivable lands.
  • Concrete base for Solar Panel Mounting Structure where GI Pipe & MS Angle Bar made mounting structure fabricated to mount 42 KWp solar panels.
  • A Brick made Pump House with RCC roof. The pump house just centered at the top of the bore well.
  • A concrete Header Tank, the center of water distribution line, capable to create up to 3m of head.
  • The entire project site (Approx. 12 decimal lands) is fenced by barbed wires.

Solar irrigation pump is 100% environment friendly, it is free from emissions of carbon and therefore it has a positive impact on our environment. Apart from its environmental benefit, it’s playing a vital role to the socio economic development in the project areas. Cost of irrigation reduces up to 50%. Cultivable land has remarkably increased. Crop production has enhanced in many extends. After all over 6000 farmers are getting the benefits directly whereas it’s a successful business model of Bengal Solar.

Project overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaq2RvStLK0

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