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Wind power fails to take off in Bangladesh

  • Published at 09:16 am October 3rd, 2017
  • Last updated at 04:55 pm October 7th, 2017
Wind power fails to take off in Bangladesh

The government has taken several initiatives to introduce wind generated power to the national power grid since 2013, but none of them has made any tangible progress.

Among the projects initiated by an Awami League-led government which is apparently keen to embrace green energy production is the construction of three wind-based power plants with a combined generating capacity of 260 megawatts (MW).

A deal was made for a 60-MW power plant with the Power Development Board (PDB), a letter of intent (LoI) for a 100-MW plant and a MoU was signed for another 100-MW plant.

A deal was also inked for the mapping of eight potential sites across Bangladesh for further wind-based power generation.

“We have communicated with companies with whom we have signed deals and Letter of Intent (LoI), but the response from their side was poor,” Director (Renewable Energy) of Power Development Board (PDB) Sheik Nazmul Haq told the Dhaka Tribune.

"We want the projects to go ahead, but if they [the partner companies] delay, we cannot do much here. We are trying to start the projects as soon as possible."

The government is building from a low base: Bangladesh is heavily dependent on natural gas- and oil-based power plants and has only three wind-based power plants, all of which are off-grid.

Two of the wind-based power plants are situated in Kutubdia Island of Cox’s Bazar and the third one is situated at Mahurir Char Island in Feni. Each has a capacity of only one megawatt.

“Wind power production is a new endeavour for the country,” Siddique Zobair, a member of Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority, told the Dhaka Tribune.

“Although wind power technology is one of the cheapest clean power options, Bangladesh has lagged behind in this sector for different reasons. It is solely dependent on fossil fuels at the moment to generate power and power generation through wind turbines is only being done on a very small scale.”

A source in the Power Division told the Dhaka Tribune that its growth forecast for Bangladesh’s energy sector shows that the demand for electricity will reach 24,000MW by 2021 and 40,000MW by 2030.

“To meet the ever increasing demand, the government has plans to generate 10% of electricity from renewable sources,” Siddique Zobair said.

The plans have been on the table for some time.

In May 2014, the PDB signed a power purchase agreement with US-DK Green Energy Ltd, a joint venture company, to build Bangladesh’s first 60MW wind turbine power plant in Cox’s Bazar.

When the deal was inked, the PDB called the project “a milestone in Bangladesh’s power generation history and a new era for Bangladesh’s energy sector”. However, there has been no tangible progress in the construction of this plant.

US-DK Green Energy Managing Director Zahurul Islam Khan told the Dhaka Tribune that as per the agreement, the power plant was supposed to start commercial operation from April 2015. The construction of the plant has been repeatedly delayed, however, and is now scheduled to start in November.

“As wind power is a new concept in Bangladesh, many investors were reluctant to support the project, which led to the delay,” he added.

“The project investors were changed, and the project faced many challenges including the mapping of wind speed and direction and securing funds.”

Under the agreement for the wind turbine plant, the PDB will buy electricity from the company for the next 18 years at a rate of $0.12 per unit (kilowatt-hour).

On December 17, 2013, PDB issued a letter of intent to Consortium of PIA Group LCC, Spain and Bangladesh Alternative Energy Systems Limited, to build a 100MW wind-based power plant in Anwara area of Chittagong under the independent power producer mode.

PDB plans to buy per unit of electricity for 12 US cents (Tk 9.87) from the project for the next 20 years.

In another delayed project that started in September 2013, the Power Division has been mapping the wind speed and direction in eight areas across Bangladesh to assess the possibility of power generation.

According to a source in the Power Division, Bangladesh’s average wind velocity is 4.5 metres/sec and 50MW to 200MW of power could be generated from wind power plants in different coastal and inland sites across Bangladesh.

The mapping is being conducted in coastal zones, onshore and inland areas, such as Inani Beach of Cox’s Bazar, Sitakunda and Anwara of Chittagong, Khepupara of Patuakhali, Morelganj of Bagerhat, Chandpur, and Rajshahi.

Project Director Md Bazlur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that the estimated Tk119-million project is being implemented with the financial assistance of the USAID. Progress, however, has been slow.

“It is true that the project is already facing a delay, but we are expecting a complete report to be submitted by April of next year,” said the official, who is also a joint secretary of the Power Division.

Finally, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Power Division and Vestas-Asia-Pacific Wind Technology Pvt Limited was signed on October 13, 2015.

As per the MoU, Vestas was supposed to conduct Wind Resource Assessments (WRA) at two places in Patuakhali for the construction of a 100MW wind turbine power plant, and submit these within a year. However, there has been no progress in this regard.

Regardless of the slow rate of development, the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority member Siddique Zobair struck an upbeat tone.

“The existing contracts and projects related to wind power will be completed by June next year,” he said.