Contributing to energy security

May 17, 2021

Work underway to install solar panels at the 180kW solar photovoltaic (PV) project site at Rubesa, Wangdue Phodrang

Few metres from the windmills at Rubesa, Wangduephodrang, a different type of a farm is sprouting. Just like plants taking advantage of sun, the solar farm will harness its power and convert it into clean and green energy.

Bhutan’s energy demand has increased with remarkable socio-economic development and this has led to import of electricity from India during lean season of power generation. Climate change induced uncertainties on river discharges brings in additional risk to the national energy security. The diversification of energy source is expected to mitigate such risks.

The pilot 180kW solar photovoltaic (PV) project is a grid-tied, ground-mounted system and employs local contractors and workers. The project is innovative and transformational, and will contribute towards enhancing Bhutan’s energy security, help generate green services and jobs, and demonstrate viability of solar energy. It is also expected to catalyse additional investments in solar PV systems and promote downstream industry in solar PV and accessories manufacturing.

The Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) has identified four sites as techno-economically feasible and socio-environmentally acceptable for similar projects. Experienced and trained personnel from the pilot project will form key group of professionals taking up the other renewable energy projects at utility level in near future. 

The solar project is housed at the Wind Farm in Rubesa

At the solar PV project site, despite challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, consistent progress is being made with project commissioning expected in the next few months. 

Workers are up and about installing the solar panels by 6 am to take advantage of the weather, which quickly becomes windy by afternoon. About 200 of the over 400 panels have been installed so far, after which installation of invertors and transformers with grid connection will be carried out before the project is commissioned.   

According to Yonten Dorji, one of the workers at the project site, installing the solar panels was a new skill he gained. Yonten is a vocational training institute graduate with electrical background. “After the commissioning of the project, I am expecting to gain more knowledge in solar projects,” he said. “If more of such projects are initiated, I could easily take up the work.”

The solar farm is expected to be operational in a month or two and will be integrated with the 600kW wind farm. The solar farm is expected to generate about 263,000 units of energy annually with regional mitigation benefit of 253 tons carbon dioxide. 

The solar PV power project, supported by UNDP is funded by the Government of Japan under the “Innovation for a smarter, greener and more resilient 21st Century Bhutan”. It is implemented by DRE through Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC).