Bhutan to Generate 6.5MW of Renewable Energy
“We’re planning to generate five megawatts (MW) of electricity from solar power and at least 1.5MW from wind turbines,” said Mewang Gyeltshen, the director of the Department of Renewable Energy (DRE).
Bhutan is expected to invest more in the renewable energy sector in the next five years, according to the Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) director Mewang Gyeltshen.
“We’re planning to generate five megawatts (MW) of electricity from solar power and at least 1.5MW from wind turbines,” he said.
Success of the first two wind turbines
The country charted a new course in renewable energy sector when in 2015 the first two wind turbines in Wangdue, built with a USD 2.98 million Asian Development Bank grant, began producing electricity.
The two wind turbines in Rubesa, opposite the Wangduephodrang dzong produce 600-kilowatts (KW) of energy, enough to light up more than 100 village homes. The country’s pilot wind power project generates about 1.21 million units of energy and earns about Nu 2.5M in revenue annually.
After the success of the pilot project, the DRE has identified two more sites for more wind turbine projects in the next plan.
The department’s preliminary study found that the ridge above the Nyizergang Lhakhang could accommodate more than half a dozen wind turbines.
“The whole ridge above the temple could produce about 12MW of energy but we’re keeping our targets modest,” he said. “Our target is to produce at least 1.5MW and connect it to the grid.”
The other site is the road on the way to Gase Tshogom gewog.
“We’re investigating at the moment and will install a 50m tall wind masts at both the sites to see how much energy we can produce,” he said.
Tshimasham in Chukha, Chelela in Haa and Rubesa in Wangdue were sites initially chosen for capacity and feasibility study in 2009.
These places are mostly windy in the afternoon and at night. “Wangdue dzongkhag has huge potential for wind power,” he said.
Generating energy from Solar Panels
While the departments estimate that the project in Shingkhar will produce about 30MW, the expansive grazing land will be covered with panels producing between 25 to 30MW of energy. The department will complete a feasibility study of setting up the power plant towards the end of 2017.
The department has distributed about 2,000 units of solar home lighting to rural households across the country. The demand for individual home solar lighting units will lessen as more households are connected with grid electricity.
“That’s why we’re moving towards producing electricity from solar energy and connecting to the national grid system,” he said.
The director said that investment could not be made in renewable energy so far because the unit cost of doing so is higher compared to using hydropower. “We’ll also distribute large solar water heating systems to major hotels in the country on a cost-sharing basis.”
By Tshering Palden (This article has been edited for the Bhutan Times)