… the installation is expected to complete by end of December 2024

Yangyel Lhaden 

The groundbreaking ceremony for the country’s first mega solar power plant with a capacity of 17.38-megawatt was held in Sephu, Wangdue yesterday.

The plant, which is expected to complete by the end of 2024, will occupy 65.49 acres in Yongtru village.

The plant can generate 25 million units of energy which would be fed to the national electricity grid. On average, an urban household consumes five-kilowatt energy. This means the Sephu plant can power 3,476 households.

Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Loknath Sharma said, “Sephu solar plant is the first medium solar farm in the country.”

The minister said that Sephu solar plant marked the beginning of achieving a 500-megawatt energy target through solar power in the next three years. He said that the plant project is undertaken by the ministry. “The other projects would be carried out by Druk Green Power Corporation Limited.”

The government plans to achieve solar energy generation of 500 megawatts by 2025 and 1,000 megawatts by 2030.

Lyonpo thanked the people of Sephu gewog, former and current gups of Sephu, and dzongkhag for supporting the project despite the fact that there might not be immediate gains for the community. “It is a huge support from the community towards achieving the country’s energy mix and security.”

In 2021, the first planned mega solar power plant, a 30 megawatt, in Shingkhar Bumthang was dropped because the community refused to give clearance for various reasons.

The plant was expected to generate 46.19 million units of energy annually with an annual revenue generation of Nu 233.725 million.

The ministry also cancelled a project to construct a 23-megawatt wind power plant in Gaselo, Wangdue.

The Shingkhar and Sephu solar power plants and Gaselo’s wind farm were part of ministry’s plan in 2020 to install three major renewable power plants with funding from ADB. When Shingkhar solar power plant was dropped the ADB couldn’t fund the wind farm as it became economically non-viable.

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

The energy department has installed a 276.7-kilowatt solar power system, besides the Sephu solar plant, and about 1,450-kilowatt solar power system has been installed by other agencies. 

The energy department installed the first 180-kilowatt grid-tied solar plant in Rubesa, Wangdue, 11.7-kilowatt grid-tied solar panel at the energy and natural resources ministry’s compound, and 80-kilowatt off-grid solar pant at Aja ney, Mongar among others.

This year, Bhutan Solar Initiative Project installed one grid-tied solar plant each at Centenary Farmers’ Market and Dechencholing with a capacity of 250 kilowatts and 500 kilowatts respectively.