The lack of energy infrastructure has left much of rural Pakistan without light. The development of these areas is hindered by the absence of this crucial amenity. Pakistan suffers from massive energy deficits, whereby installation of infrastructure would not have the desired effect upon alleviating current and future energy needs. IET focuses on local energy sources, which can tap the local environment to fulfill the energy requirements. The Pakistan coast is a prime location for the use of renewable energy technologies. Decreasing capital costs of these technologies and their long-term viability makes them an ideal source of energy. Thus IET projects focus upon the harnessing and use of easily available resources like abundant sunshine and ample wind conditions in the coastal areas, are key component of IET’s projects are planned with a view towards energy independence for communities.
Solar Home Systems
Solar Home System (SHLSs) are decentralised and particularly suitable for remote, inaccessible areas, which are not connected to the grid. Based on its easy application and maintenance, SHSs are the most successful alternate facility for electrifying the rural areas. They also present an attractive alternative to conventional electricity as there are no monthly bills, no fuel cost, require very little repair and maintenance, and are easy to install.
IET offers two types of systems:
- Centralised system, which cater to communities collectively. A ‘solar house’ is established and contains a panel on the roof, with converters, inverters and batteries inside the ‘house’. Approximately 8-10 houses are supplied via underground cabling two LED lights and a solar street light for the area is fed from here. The system can be maintained by one person from the village who is trained to do so.
- Individual systems, which cater to individual houses with own panel, battery and lights supplied by IET. Maintenance becomes each person’s responsibility.
In each community a ‘saving’ scheme is emphasised as an alternative to paying for the electric power. This fund is placed in a community bank and is used specifically to replace any parts that are broken.
Solar Street Lights
Solar street lights improve the mobility and security of the community. IET has installed 145 street lights which have a battery power of 8 -10 hours. The lights come on automatically at sunset and can either be manually switched off or automatically once the battery has reached its capacity. Each solar street light is supported by a metal pole which is embedded in a concrete foundation.
These lights cover an area of 20 ft. diameter and give 1.8-2 fc illumination at ground level. For each light, 198 high intensity Light Emitting Diodes are used. A 25-watt solar panel charges one 12-volt 18 Ah sealed lead acid battery.
Solar Home & Street Lighting Project
Recently IET has implemented a project for PPAF under the SCAD program which cover both the needs of individual homes and community in the Solar Home & Street Lighting Project
Just Light Is Not Enough Project
Another extension of the energy solutions has been the Just Light Is Not Enough Project, which is an attempt to scale up the scope of Solar Home & Street Lights project by providing enough energy for gaining basic power for tools for business use. It aims to improve local employment, productivity and living standards of rural communities.
Solar Water Pumps
Solar water pumps are an alternative to diesel generators. The prohibitive cost of diesel and the noise component has encouraged many farmers to opt for solar power as the fuel source is free.
A typical solar powered pumping system consists of a solar panel array that powers an electric motor, which in turn powers a bore or surface pump. The water is often pumped from the ground or stream into a storage tank that provides a gravity feed, so energy storage is not needed for these systems. PV powered pumping systems are a cost-effective alternative to agricultural wind turbines for remote area water supply. Effective water provision is from a depth of 150ft and supplied to an overhead tank at a height of 30 ft. maximum.
Solar water pumping arrays are fixed mounted or sometimes placed on passive trackers (which use no motors) to increase pumping time and volume. AC and DC motors with centrifugal or displacement pumps are used.
These are made by IET to provide enough light to illuminate a room in a village with enough power to charge mobile phones. As these are mobile they have proved very popular with women who use these at night to their toilet.
Traditionally population living along the coast of Sindh and Balochistan use kerosene and fire wood as their source of energy. IET’s alternative energy interventions consist of wind turbines to pump water and to provide electricity.
IET is piloting two bio mass projects. This is to ascertain the acceptability of this method in the communities in a system that can have certain cultural issues.
IET also provides animals as alternative energy solutions. Camels and donkeys are reliable and completely sustainable. They carry great loads over long distances, extract water from 100 ft. deep wells by acting as pulleys, are loyal to their master/trainer, require fodder as fuel which grows wild and can drink brackish/untreated water. Used to a great extent by communities and can be sold at competitive prices. The alternative is diesel run engines, which are costly, unreliable and not sustainable as an environmentally friendly product. Transport vehicles also need constant repair and provide no companionship.
Humans have been providing their own energy power for centuries. In the rural areas this is still the one system used extensively. Now they can turn a bicycle wheel and provide their own electric power. Less reliability on machines is encouraged.
Educating and maintenance training for Alternative Energy Systems
As part of its projects IET also imparts training of the entire community in understanding, not the mechanics, but the philosophy of the new energy supplier, the maintenance and cleaning of the panels, and its limitations. Solar systems and wind turbines are a new phenomenon for the rural communities and in order to ensure project sustainability communities must learn to manage and look after these new technologies.