The Power Ministry, in a statement on Wednesday, said Minister Dullas Alahapperuma has taken steps to promote floating solarsystems on water bodies to generate electricity. Solar electricity is one form of renewable energy (RE).
Some of the others being ‘wind’ and hydroelectricity. Having in place floating solar electricity generating systems will achieve two things. They are, the saving of valuable foreign exchange and minimising environmental pollution because the bulk of Sri Lanka’s electricity supply is currently met by the import of pollutive petroleum fuels and coal. Sri Lanka currently produces no petroleum fuels or coal.
The Ministry further said it hopes to meet 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s electricity needs through RE sources by 2030. Some of Sri Lanka’s present renewable sources of electricity are hydro and wind power and solar, the latter currently promoted at micro levels vis-à-vis the installation of rooftop solar panels for the production of electricity in households and commercial buildings with ADB aid.
The Ministry said as a first step to promote floating solar systems in the country, it will utilise an Indian line of credit,where, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) plans to utilise such a system to provide electricity to Parliament by floating a solarelectricity generating system on the Diyawanna Oya. It will have the capacity to generate 1.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity power, the Ministry said.
The second step will be to harness more solar electricity by affixing floating solar systems to several of Sri Lanka’s waterways identified by the Mahaweli Authority, it said. Consonant with these developments, the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) proposes to harness 100 MW of electricity power by utilising floating solar electricity systems via identified waterways, the Ministry said.
Vis-à-vis the currently available ADB-funded rooftop panel solar systems applicable to both households and commercial buildings, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), the electricity regulator, said a solar power plant with two kilowatts (2,000 watts) of capacity would be sufficient to generate electricity if one consumes about 200 units per month. (1kW=115-120 units per month).The investment on a two-kW solar power plant will be about Rs 400,000, PUCSL said.
There are different capacities of solar power panels in the market and the average weight of a solar panel of 420 watts (0.42 kilowatts)is 24 kilogrammes. One needs to install five solar power panels, which in total would weigh about 120 kg, if one is expecting to produce or set up a solar power plant of two kilowatts (2,000 watts), PUCSL said.
The load on the roof will be increased in line with the capacity, it said. Therefore, the strength of the roof should be carefully looked at, while also considering the 20-year lifespan of the plant, PUCSL said In generating solar power with the idea of getting an income, PUCSL said there are two methods that have been introduced to support this procedure.
They are ‘net accounting’ and ‘net plus.’ PUCSL said under ‘net accounting,’applicable to both domestic (household) and commercial solar electricity systems; the consumer will be paid cash if their solargenerated power is greater than what is consumed from the grid (Ceylon Electricity Board/Lanka Electricity Company (Pvt) Ltd).The tariff is set at Rs 22 per unit (1-kilowatt hour) for the first seven years and Rs 15.50 thereafter for 13 years. Total agreement period will be 20 years, it said.
Under the ‘net plus’ system, there is no link between how much electricity the consumer, domestic or commercial, uses from the grid for which billing will happen and how much solar-generated electricity is supplied to the gridwhich will be paid in full at the rate of Rs 22 per unit for seven years and Rs 15.50 for the balance 13 years, PUCSL said.
According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s (CBSL’s) 2020 Annual Report, the average domestic electricity tariff was Rs 14.87 a unit, general purpose (commercial) Rs 23.91, GoSL Rs 18.06, Industrial Rs 14.84 and Hotels Rs 18.13. CBSL also said the cost of producing one unit of hydroelectricity last year was Rs 2.32. The production of CEB thermal coal electricity was more than four times that at Rs 9.81 a unit and CEB thermal oil electricity,13 times the cost of hydroelectricity at Rs 29.94 a unit.
CBSL doesn’t give the cost of producing one unit of ‘wind’ electricity; however, according to a statement made by Alahapperuma on Saturday, the cost of producing one unit of ‘wind’ electricity by the CEB is Rs 8. According to the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SLSEA), as at 30 April 2021, there were a total of 4,618 rooftop solar projects that had been approved islandwide. The split being 662 (14.34 per cent) ‘commercial’ and 4,618 (85.66 per cent) ‘domestic,’ respectively, SLSEA data showed.
The relatively low penetration of rooftop solar systems in the country’s commercial sector may reflect the low industrialisation of Sri Lanka and at the domestic level, probably weak roofing systems. As the GoSL is cash-strapped, it will have to look at friendly governments and multilateral donor agencies to promote RE in the country. This may require having in place both political and economic policies acceptable to them.