|Thursday, 24 January 2002|
Let there be light
by Ranil Wijayapala
Sri Lanka, a country bathed in sunshine is now exploring ways of using this natural resource at an optimum level in an endeavour to provide electricity to all houses and to overcome the power crisis.
The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) took its first step in this direction by connecting a solar power panel to the national grid for the first time. This solar panel is installed at the Worldview Global Media Office and Training Complex in Battaramulla.
Sri Lanka's leading solar power panel providers have formed a Solar Industry Association, targeting solar panels for 200,000 houses.
Secretary of the Solar Industry Association and Managing Director, Shell Renewables Lanka Ltd, Pradeep Jayawardene told the Daily News that four leading solar power specialists - Shell Renewable Lanka Ltd., Selco Lanka Ltd., Alphatherm Company and Access Solar joined hands to fulfil this aim.
He said that 1.8 million houses in the country do not have electricity, out of which 400,000 households can afford solar power panels. "Our target is to cover at least 50 per cent (200,000) of these houses," Mr. Jayawardene added.
At present 25,000 houses get electricity from solar panels. The solar industry grows by 300 per cent annually. In 2001 alone, 10,000 houses opted for solar power. In the Uva province alone, 5,000 houses now get power from the Sun with the assistance of the Uva Provincial Council, which granted Rs.10,000 to each family.
The Estate Infrastructure Ministry also began a solar electrification project by providing Rs.10,000 to each estate household.
"We need to have State patronage to reduce the capital cost borne by the end user by providing them with loans and other subsidies," Jayawardane explained. He said their Association will mainly focus on North Central, North Western, Uva and Sabaragamuwa provinces and the Ampara district in achieving this target.
"As companies engaged in the solar power industry, we also encourage them by giving them credit facilities and easy payment facilities on our own, without the participation of banks. This will see a drastic reduction in kerosene lamp accidents as solar electricity is totally safe.
Solar power is also environmental friendly because there is a reduction of carbon emissions," he remarked.
The solar power panel at Battaramulla, the biggest in Sri Lanka, supplies 25 Kw daily to the national grid. By end 2002, this will increase to 100 Kw.
Power and Energy Minister Karu Jayasuriya, who inaugurated the Battaramulla solar power project installed at Worldview Global, has said that the supply of solar power to the national grid for the first time was a landmark in the history of the Ceylon Electricity Board. Such an addition, though on a small scale, is great relief for the CEB considering the present power crisis.He said the government is taking policy decisions regarding the implementation of new projects to overcome the power crisis.
The Ministry will also encourage the private sector to establish mini hydropower projects using small waterfalls.
Oddvar Laegreid, Minister Counsellor of NORAD, one of the prime movers behind the project, has said the implementation of solar power projects in Sri Lanka was a major step as the country is blessed with plenty of sunshine. He points out that the country can use renewable energy resources which are available in abundance to overcome the power crisis.
Produced by Lake House