Thukten Zangpo 

Bhutan’s first mega solar plant, which is planned for Sephu in Wangdue from March this year,  awaits final approval from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“We are waiting for the final clearance from the ADB to award the contract,” Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Loknath Sharma said, adding that lengthy procedures and formalities led to the delay.

Funded by ADB, the 17.38 megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar plant project in Sephu would take 18 months to complete.  The plant will be built at a cost of Nu 1.4 billion.

Once complete, the plant is expected to generate 26.15 million (M) units of electricity, earning an annual revenue of Nu 132.29M.

Lyonpo said that the electricity produced from the plant would be tied to the national power grid which would add to the country’s energy security.

“We are importing 500 to 600MW of electricity in winter. The ministry plans to harness 300MW of solar energy in the next three years to offset this import,”Lyonpo said.

Bhutan, he said, cannot miss out on exploring solar energy because the plant’s construction period is less compared to hydro projects.

According to Lyonpo, lack of funding is still a challenge and the government is seeking funding from international agencies.

As per the Renewable Energy Management Master Plan 2016, it is estimated that Bhutan has the potential to produce 12 gigawatts of solar and 760MW of wind energy.

The country’s current installed capacity for renewables, apart from large hydropower plants, only amounts to 9MW.

After the commissioning of the plant, the ownership of the power plant will be transferred to DGPC. DGPC will own, operate, and maintain the power plant and supply electricity to the Bhutanese national grid.

Bhutan Power Corporation will also be involved in the project because the Corporation is responsible for power evacuation lines in Bhutan.