Clean Power

Published on May 16th, 2014 | by James Ayre


Pakistan’s First Solar Power Park Inaugurated, Will Be One Of The Biggest In World After Completion

May 16th, 2014 by  

Pakistan’s first large-scale solar power project, the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park project, was recently inaugurated by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, representing one of the country’s first clear steps towards renewable energy.

The project is expected to start generating 100 MW of power by the end of the year, and 1,000 MW by the end of 2016 (when “complete”). The project comprises 400,000 solar panels and was built for a cost of about $131 million. Once completed, the project will generate around 2.5 times the power that the massive 392 MW Ivanpah solar-thermal plant in California does — making it one of the largest solar projects in the world.

Image Credit: Pakistani Flag via Flickr CC

The project might end up being a fair bit bigger than even that, though. After the inauguration, the Prime Minister immediately approved the expansion of the project — up to 1,500 MW capacity and 15,000 acres of coverage.

“If you come here after one and a half years, you will see a river of solar panels, residential buildings and offices — it will be a new world,” stated site engineer Muhammad Sajid, pointing towards the surrounding desert.

ClimateProgress provides context on why the project is important:

This is big news for a country suffering from chronic energy shortages that leave people without power for large chunks of the day on a regular basis. And then there’s the nearly half of the households that aren’t even connected to the grid, according to a World Bank study. When temperatures soar in the summer, electricity demand can fall short by around 4,000 MW.

The Prime Minister struck much the same note during the inauguration, having stated: “The dearth of electricity has pushed the country backwards and its entire industry and agriculture sector have suffered immensely.”

And the country is certainly well-suited to solar energy development — the only thing really in the way has been a lack of funding, something that’s been changing, as we’ve covered.

Back when this project was announced last year, it was noted that the project was intended to “overcome” the emerging energy crisis in the heavily populated state of Punjab. That’s what will be interesting to observe in this situation. In an environment like Pakistan’s, with an electrical grid like Pakistan’s, with a political situation like Pakistan’s, how effectively can a large-scale solar power project address energy issues? Can it do so at all? To some degree, but less so than smaller, decentralized systems could? Will the project become a target for anti-government militias or those looking to destabilize the region?

There are a lot of interesting questions with regard to the project. Some things to keep in mind.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Arijit – Indian

    Development is the key! V good . Way to go…

    • SB

      Define development. Is it going to the moon and Mars or giving all people a better infra structure and a better life? India is woefully short of all such objectives. Just fool and divide people and remain in power.

  • jburt56

    Does the $131 million refer to the first 100 MW part of the installation?

    • sault

      Yes. $1.31 / W is a really good install price anyway, so $0.13 / W is just unrealistically low.

      • UKGary

        I think $131 million is credible for 100 MW in Pakistan given that they are close allies of China, and are probably using a combination of Chinese oversight and low cost Pakistani labour, inexpensive land, and have no restrictions on low cost Chinese imports. They would also have very low administrative BOS costs as compared with the US. India thinks it can install very large utility solar for around $1.1 per watt.

        Large scale projects in the UK are installing for around $1.60 to $1.70 per watt (Cost to the customer not cost price of the installer). I have heard that installer cost in the UK is around $1.30.

  • JamesWimberley

    Pakistan is following exactly the same centralizing path as its adversary India. Distributed solar would be cheaper, given the grid issues, but it takes cleverer policy.

    In major news for solar today, Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP won a landslide election victory in India. He will become Prime Minister. The guy has a fishy history – he’s even a member of the thuggish paramilitary RSS – but his solar and electricity policy in Gujarat has been outstandingly successful. Expect rapid change.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Utility scale solar can be installed at much lower cost. Distributed solar depends to some degree on end-users having the capital (access to capital) to install. Right now, in the US, utility scale is running about half the cost of end-user solar.

      Some of the decision might be based on bang for the buck, er, rupee.

      • JamesWimberley

        On residential rooftop, you may have a point – though nobody else’s red tape has the breaking strength of the proper American variety. But do your cost ratios apply to commercial solar? I don’t see why IKEA or its Pakistani equivalents should pay significantly more than a greenfield (or sandy-desert) developer for a 500kw installation.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’ve never been in Pakistan. I suppose I’m generalizing a bit from India and Bangladesh when I wonder how much IKEA type commercial development there might be. Large commercial businesses seem like they would be the exception, found only in major cities and then not in great numbers.

      • UKGary

        That ratio can be rather different in other countries. In the UK, the ratio is more like 1.5 to 1, and I would expect an even lower ratio in Pakistan where labour and scaffolding cost are far lower.

        I think that after availability of capital, the need to function during scheduled power outages is probably the biggest barrier to rooftop solar in Pakistan. (Standard solar will lose a significant proportion of its generation as standard inverters cannot operate when the mains power goes down).

    • sukumar

      Mr j Wimberley, r u a technical person or political, but any case your knoweledge about technology and politics both is below par,
      india is adding 1000 MW every year and reaching to grid parity, thanks to major initiative by NAMO and many other states. in two years time the progress should explode . Namo is more nationalist than any body and most honest in the world , he have the guts to call a spade , a spade. That may trouble many like you.

  • UKGary

    Whilst the cost of a large ground mounted solar park is less than the same capacity on rooftops, such a large project places large demands on the grid, and local cloud can make large sudden changes to output.

    The same capacity on rooftops throughout the country could be absorbed without upgrading the power grid, has higher value to the owner as it displaces bought retail electricity rather than sold wholesale. There is however a problem – without battery capacity and “safe islanding” capability, i.e. the ability to run off the grid, such rooftop power generation would be routinely shed along with the loads when the utility shuts down power to an area to keep the remainder of the grid stable.

    Possibly the best compromise is rooftop projects on larger buildings equipped with their own diesel generators as they are already set up to run when the grid is off, and solar displaces both grid purchased and on site diesel generated electricity whenever it is available. For such customers in Pakistan (And most other sun belt countries), such a solar array is likely to be a very attractive proposition substantially reducing ongoing costs and achieving an attractive payback period even without any form of government incentive.

  • Kamran

    This solar project can’t do all, but we hope it will reduce energy crisis.

Back to Top ↑