Japan to fund 400kWh pilot solar project

The Japanese Government’s official donor company, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has agreed to invest 1 billion yen (US$11.1 million) in the Project for Clean Energy in Malé.

The project would see solar panels capable of providing up to 400 kilowatt hours (kWh) installed in five locations around Malé. By comparison, STELCO’s Malé powerhouse currently has an annual peak usage of 32,618 kWh.

The solar agreement was signed by High Commissioner of the Maldives in Sri Lanka, Ali Hussain Didi, and Chief Representative of JICA, Akira Shimura. The signing took place at the Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka on 25 March 2010.

Feasibility studies for the project were undertaken by JICA in 2009 and the project is due to begin in April 2011 and is expected to be completed by October 2011.

The five selected locations are the President’s Office, Maldives Center for Social Education (MCSE), State Electricity Company Limited (STELCO), Thaajuddeen School and Hiriyaa School.

According to JICA, the project will “promote the utilization of solar energy as an alternate and renewable resource of energy and undertake adaptation measures against climate change by reducing Green House Gases.”

Research officer and local representative of JICA, Mohamed Aiysh, explained that JICA had a major interest in the development of the Maldives and had been assisting with food aid since the 1980s.

As the largest privately owned multilateral donor organisation in the world, Aiysh said JICA’s assistance to the Maldives, and other countries around the world, was “very important to the international community” and a “benefit to mankind.”

The agreement is the result of a request for aid made by the Maldivian government to the Japanese government as part of the Maldives’ bid to be carbon-neutral by 2020.

Aiysh said the Ministry of Housing, Transportation and Environment (MHTE) is JICA’s “local counterpart” and they will be responsible for implementing and running the project.

According to Minister for Housing, Transportation and Environment Mohamed Aslam, that solar panels are “expected to have a capacity to produce 400kWt of solar energy at any given time,” and the JICA-sponsored project is a “pilot work” expected to cut energy costs in the long run.

He said the ministry has three more renewable energy projects underway, all of them in the feasibility study phase.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed with Indian company Suzlon Energy for a 25 megawatt wind farm in Addu Atoll.

Another MoU has been signed with Winwind, a Finnish company that builds latest-generation wind turbines, to begin work on a wind farm in the Maldives.

The third MoU has been signed with Falck Energy, also for wind-produced energy.

Aslam said “the vision we have is to make all energy in the country renewable by 2020.”

Ali Rilwan from environmental NGO Bluepeace said he didn’t think the amount of surface space required for solar-powered energy would be sufficient to power all of Malé.

“We don’t have that kind of surface. You would need to cover all of Malé [in solar panels] to produce enough energy.”

Rilwan said wind energy was a more feasible and practical option to replace the amount of fossil fuel energy STELCO is currently producing, but he thought the solar panels are “ideal for powering street lights and park lights. Not for buildings.”

Japan has previously donated the sea wall in Malé, the construction of the MCSE, and the reconstruction of Thaajuddeen School and Hiriyaa School, among others.

JICA is currently rehabilitating harbours in seven islands, establishing sewage facilities on three islands, and collaborating with MHTE in the field of sewage systems.