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Floating Solar Panels For Karachi Could Be a Splash

It’s not a crazy big idea and definitely not as provocative as ‘China cutting’ and ‘land-grabbing’ are. Karachi, the capital of Sindh and the country’s financial hub could monetize its stranded asset–the sea.

IRSHAD SALIM (Nov 22, 2018): Floating solar panel technology has been gaining traction as a favorable and cost-effective alternative to land-based photovoltaic systems.

For the record, hydropower constitutes 53% of the global renewable energy, while wind and solar power account for 24% and 18%, respectively. Though in third place, solar energy has been touted as the fastest-growing source of new energy globally by the International Energy Agency.

A key reason for the increased rate of installations is the sharp decline in installation costs of solar PV and floating panels, which are transforming energy management and land utilization. Moreover, floating solar panel technology has been gaining traction as one of the favorable and cost-effective alternatives to land-based PV systems.

As more and more countries gradually recognize the effective utilization of waterbodies over land space, the floating solar panel market is expected to gain a further edge cost-benefit wise across myriad geographies. Pakistan is one of the countries with nearly 1100km of sun-soaked coastline spanning east to west.

The growing adoption of clean electricity generation and unavailability of land have been identified as the most-prominent factors impelling the implementation of floating solar panel technology in the region.

Pakistan has both attributes working to its favor–but untapped. Its economic powerhouse Karachi is the ground zero of a huge population growth among global mega cities, and rising air and water quality issues and lastly land scarcity.

The country is putting considerable efforts into reducing its reliance on fossil fuels as well as tackling the exponentially rising air pollution in major cities—making Karachi and its vicinity one of the most viable grounds for the clean energy revolution.

The country has installed several solar and wind power projects on land in the rural areas of Sindh, with land acquisition and electricity evacuation to national grid being major activities on the critical path duration wise.

Karachi has a significant coastline which provides floating solar power concept a great idea to look at not just on cost-benefit tradeoff level, but also on public policy level. The right mix exists–needs political will only by stakeholders which has been the stumbling block in the mega city which produces more than 60 to 70 percent of revenue, according to some experts.

China–Pakistan’s all-weather friend has cemented its position as a world leader in renewable energy by building the largest floating solar farm located in Huainan, Anhui. The 40-MW power plant comprises 120,000 solar panels. The region is also home to Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, the currently leading solar power plant and a previous POWER Top Plant awardee.

With growing investments along the lines of such large-scale projects, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that China through CPEC or Chinese private companies could be interested in such a public-private project—even K-Electric could be asked to look at it—Shanghai Electric is poised to take over as its major shareholder. It already has a vast transmission and distribution network and needs more power to produce and sell with profit through the tariff already in place.

China’s floating solar panel market is estimated to witness a phenomenal growth rate of more than 30% from 2016 to 2024. Even other international players could be invited–security is no longer an issue in the metropolis.

Collateral benefit of all these could be new addons to our blue economy, which is also being pushed on priority basis.

The scarcity of land space, the need to address climate change issues, and growing regulatory measures for effective utilization of waterbodies act as catalysts in the floating solar panel idea.

There are also serious talks ongoing about installing desalination plants for the mega city. The Sindh government or the local government should look into combining both projects badly needed by the city.  Favorable regulatory framework already exist.

The two ideas are mutually inclusive qualitatively and financially for the city of lights. Same idea can be duplicated elsewhere also along other parts of the coastline of Sindh and Balochistan–once the Karachi idea is implemented and operationalized successfully.

It’s not a crazy big idea, and definitely not as provocative as ‘China cutting’ and ‘land-grabbing’ are.  Karachi, the capital of Sindh and the country’s financial hub could monetize its  stranded asset–the sea.

(The writer is a business & construction consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb, DesPardes and BE2C2 Report and presently based in Islamabad)






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