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The country is expected to invest more in renewable energy sector in the next five years, according to the Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) director Mewang Gyeltshen.

Bhutan to generate 6.5MW renewable energy

The country is expected to invest more in renewable energy sector in the next five years, according to the Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) director Mewang Gyeltshen.

“We’re planning to generate five megawatts (MW) of electricity from solar and at least 1.5MW from wind turbines,” he said.

The country charted a new course in renewable energy sector when in 2015 the first two wind turbines in Wangdue, built with USD 2.98 million Asian Development Bank grant, began producing electricity.

The two wind turbines in Rubesa, opposite the Wangduephodrang dzong together produce 600-kilowatts (KW) of energy, enough to light up more than 100 village homes. The country’s pilot wind power project generates about 1.21 million units of energy and earns about Nu 2.5M in revenue annually.

After the success of the pilot project, the DRE has identified two more sites for more wind turbine projects in the next plan.

The department’s preliminary study found that the ridge above the Nyizergang Lhakhang could accommodate more than half a dozen of wind turbines.

“The whole ridge above the temple could produce about 12MW but we’re keeping our targets modest,” he said. “Our target is to produce at least 1.5MW and connect it to the grid.”

The other site is on the way to Gase Tshogom gewog.

“We’re investigating at the moment and will install 50-meter tall wind masts at both the sites to see how much we can produce,” he said.

Tshimasham in Chukha, Chelela in Haa, and Rubesa in Wangdue were initially chosen for capacity and feasibility study in 2009.

The places are mostly windy in the afternoon and at night. “Wangdue dzongkhag has huge potential for wind power,” he said.

The country will also see the first large-scale solar panels at Shingkhar in Bumthang and Longtoe, which is right after descending from Pelela towards Tangsibje in Trongsa.

While the departments estimate the project in Shingkhar to produce about 30MW, and the large expansive grazing land would be covered with panels producing more than between 25 to 30MW. The department will complete a feasibility study of setting up the power plant towards the end of this year.

The department has distributed about 2,000 units of solar home lighting units to rural households across the country.

The demand for individual home solar lighting units would be less as more households are connected with grid electricity.

“That’s why we’re moving towards producing electricity from solar energy and connecting to the national grid system,” he said.

The director said that investment could not be made in renewable energy so far because per unit cost is higher compared to hydropower. “We’ll also distribute large solar water heating systems to major hotels in the country on a cost-sharing basis.”

Tshering Palden 

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