Leveraging solar energy : Photovoltaic boats to do away adverse effects of using fossil fuel
As a riverine country with roughly 800 rivers and total waterways stretching nearly 24,140km, it is no surprise that water travel is the cheapest means of transportation in rural and coastal areas of Bangladesh.
But with advent of technology, traditional boats have been equipped with diesel engines, to ease the labour of the boatmen, posing very different problems. The engines are enormously energy inefficient, use expensive imported fuel and are not environment-friendly due to their greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on aquatic biodiversity.
What if transportation between nearby riverside villages or for fishing purposes could be made cheaper and less harmful to nature? What if sustainable renewable energy sources were tapped to benefit the boatmen and the nature? What if passengers could travel on motorised solar boats without having to face the noise pollution and fumes from fossil fuel combustion?
That is exactly what we are is doing, under the Sustainable Renewable Energy Power Generation (SREPGen) project, a joint initiative of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Sustainable & Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) of Power Division.
Five solar boats have been constructed as an experiment to replace conventional fuel-based boats with solar photovoltaic-based innovation, with funding from the Global Environment Facility.
Project engineer, Ahmedul Kabir Upal believes that the solar-powered boat will play important role in protecting the environment and the energy deficit, as he said: “There will be no water pollution from solar-powered vessels.”
The five solar-boats recently have been leased to Hatirjheel in Dhaka, Panama Lake in Narayanganj and Foy's Lake in Chittagong for demonstration.
The energy efficiency retrofit for water transport have paved the way for higher energy security and lower energy demand and GHG emission in Bangladesh and the Honourable Prime Minister is soon to inaugurate these operational vehicles soon.
“There is a potential of converting about 500,000 diesel-run country boat and fishing boats to such solar-powered boats, and the total greenhouse gas mitigation potential from these types of conventional boats are about 3 million tonnes per year” said Arif Mohammad M. Faisal, Programme Specialist - Environmental Sustainability and Energy, UNDP Bangladesh.
Greenhouse gas mitigation potential from the diesel driven boat is calculated as 6 tonnes/per solar boat/ per year. Therefore, total mitigation potential from these types of conventional boat is about 3 million tonnes per year.
A sustainable financial model has also been developed that bases itself on loans, grants and owner’s equity composition based on financial and economic analyses conducted to evaluate the financial viability of the project.
However the initiative needs to be scaled up, with support from the government and other development partnerss in order to cover the whole country and to make a transformational change for promoting greener growth.