Bhutan hold country’s mega solar project

The 30-megawatt solar plant at Shingkhar in Bumthang has been deferred indefinitely raising questions about the government’s seriousness to pursue the country’s ambitious alternate renewable energy aspirations.

Economic affairs ministry officials said that they were instructed to keep the project in abeyance.

The community submitted two letters requesting the government to cancel the project which they said would jeopardise their pastureland and livelihoods as they depend largely on their livestock. The letters came after numerous consultations and presentations by the project and public officials.

In an attempt to convince the community, Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma visited Shingkhar village in August this year. The issue was tabled at a Cabinet meeting.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that it was sad that Shingkhar community could not co-operate well. “But I am sure they will one day understand why I made an attempt to convince them. I’d not right away comment on their hesitance, but for now we will not pursue Shingkhar solar project as a priority.”

With the rapid advancement in research and development in technology, the cost of equipment and construction of solar power projects is becoming cheaper every year.

First mega solar power project

The project was ro lay 80,000 panels in Shingkhar worth about Nu 2 billion occupying 114 acres out of the 800-acres available. It was expected to generate 46.19M units of energy annually with an annual revenue generation of Nu 233.725M.

The panels would be raised only two feet from the ground and pose no threats whether the environment or any other aspects, an solar power expert said. “There’ll be no high rise tower or any radiation. Nothing harmful at all.”

The project would produce 10 times the energy required by Bumthang. The solar project could have been the solution to dzongkhag’s problems of erratic power supply, mainly in winter.