The graduation from individual Solar Home Systems to nano- and mini-grids deserves to be considered a remarkable development, in that it enables villagers to utilise solar power in economical way. It has remarkably cut down the cost of using electricity. The media reports about people's large-scale switching over to solar power in the remote mid-river Chars (shoals) tell the story of tapping the potential of this energy. Sunlight is abundantly available in the country. Isolated efforts to generate solar power in the outlying areas have for some time been an encouraging aspect of the rural areas' increasing electricity coverage. The village-based distribution infrastructure has yet to fully cater to vast rural swathes not connected to electricity. The increasing use of solar power in the mainland and Char villages is viewed as a slowly emerging watershed in the country. It, indisputably, comprises the potent ingredients of a brave new era.
Against this fast-changing backdrop of solar power utilisation, Char villages, viz. those under Ashariadaha union in the Padma River, have been found getting connected to solar panels. The union is under Godagari upazila in Rajshahi district. That the villages, in total six, are immensely being benefited from solar power connections is implied. In the union, a mini-grid project has put to use 594 solar panels. Operating on the financial initiative of the government-run Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), the project provides power supply to the isolated villages cut off from mainland. In undertaking the job, the project has spent around Tk 100 million in 2015. The solar panels are generating 148.5 kilowatts of electricity, with the villages getting power through a distribution line. A similar story has unfolded in another Char village-cum-market in the Jamuna mid-river in Sirajganj district. The mini-grid project in the village connects 500 commercial and domestic users. It has almost halved the power connection costs by replacing diesel-run generators with solar mini-grid lines.
Notwithstanding the unwarranted delays and dithering, that the solar power has started being in place at last is upbeat news. In a power-deficient country that remains awash with bright sun round the year except during rains, the solar energy offers immense prospects for its use in both household and commercial activities. At the domestic consumers' level, it has made life a lot easier. Apart from operating electric and electronic appliances at home, it has opened a vista of opportunities for entrepreneurs engaged in trade and commerce in the village markets. The greatest boon that comes from the solar technology is aimed at young learners at school. Studying in electric light instead of that coming from kerosene lamps has prompted a radical transformation in the way students prepare lessons at home.
Apart from the above instances, lately there have been more such areas freed of darkness through solar power. Long on the path to development, Bangladesh cannot afford to ignore its vast prospects latent in its untapped solar power. Impediments are there, created by indecisiveness and foot-dragging at policy level. This is unacceptable. Isolated piecemeal initiatives stand nowhere near the sufficiently funded massive government-sponsored ventures. When it comes to installing solar panels in the sprawling off-grid rural swathes, and making the country fully self-sufficient in power, the authorities' dawdling comes up as a damper. In the day-to-day chores and mid-level economic activities, solar power works wonders. Its source is available for free. With the cost of conventional electricity rising unabated, neglecting solar power amounts to exercises in the worst form of imprudence.
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