Yangyel Lhaden

The economic affairs ministry (MoEA) has dropped the  23MW megawatt (MW) wind power plant project in Gaselo. This is the second project MoEA cancelled after the 30MW mega solar power plant in Shingkhar, Bumthang.

The two renewable alternative energy projects were part of the ministry’s 2020 plan to install three major renewable power plants including the 17MW solar plant at Seyphu, Wangdue with funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Department of Renewable Energy’s (DRE), Director Phuntsho Namgyal said that the wind farm at Gaselo in Wangdue is not viable. 

He said that the Gaselo wind farm was viable only if Shingkhar and Seyphu solar plants were installed. “We need volume for the unit price of construction to go down and when construction of the biggest solar plant was dropped, ADB could not fund the wind farm at a higher cost.”

The DRE is working towards constructing the first mega solar power plant of 17MW in Seyphu which is expected to begin this year.

Once complete, the plant is expected to generate 26.15 million (M) units of electricity, earning Nu 132.29 million annually at the domestic tariff rate of Nu 5.06 per unit.

According to an estimate Bhutan has a potential to generate 12,000MW solar energy and 761MW of wind energy.

Phuntsho Namgyal said the department’s aim was to harness 760MW solar energy and 50MW wind energy by 2030. “Currently, we have only tapped one percent of solar energy in the country.”

“We are identifying sites and are hopeful by 2030, we will have seven solar power plants considering we do not face community clearance issues again,” Phuntsho Namgyal said.

He said that the department would resume wind farm projects only after 2024. “We’re also aiming to harness about 50MW solar energy from grid-tied solar photovoltaic technologies on rooftops.”

The grid-tied photovoltaic system means electricity is fed into a transmission line so that solar and hydropower energy can complement each other when solar energy is in short supply. Solar energy can also be exported to the grid when there is excess.

The DRE is working on a proposal to create a renewable energy tariff which would be submitted to the Cabinet.

Phuntsho Namgyal said that they were going to propose a net-metering scheme for renewable energy tariffs, which means there would be cost cancellation between solar energy and hydropower energy depending on consumption. “The net profit in a year will be provided to the consumer or the consumer has to pay if he/she has used more hydro energy than solar energy.”

He said that if the proposal comes through it would benefit people and more people would be interested to invest in grid-tied solar photovoltaic technologies.

“We’re also looking forward to gathering applicants who want to purchase grid-tied photovoltaic technologies to reduce costs with bulk order,” he said.