Several foreign companies in partnership with local firms have responded to an international tender floated by the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) to lease rooftop spaces of the factories and warehouses at its 13 jute mills to install solar power systems.
The BJMC, a government agency that supervises public jute factories, invited international tenders for the project on 25 July. The tender was opened on 23 August after a one-time extension.
This initiative aligns with the government's goal to expand rooftop solar systems in industrial and commercial sectors, leveraging untapped rooftop spaces due to land constraints, according to BJMC officials.
Since solar power generation requires huge investment, foreign investment will be preferred, they added.
The list of interested organisations has been forwarded to the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, the officials said. Given the technical nature of this project, the ministry will make the final decision.
BJMC Chairman Anis Mahmud told The Business Standard that the country has set a target of generating 10% of its total electricity supply from renewable energy sources. However, it is facing challenges in finding the open spaces necessary for installing solar energy plants.
"That is why the government is emphasising electricity generation by installing solar parks on the roofs of large buildings. As part of this approach, a decision has been made on leasing out the rooftops of the jute mills," he said.
He said the solar parks will be connected to the national grid, contributing to the country's economy.
The interested companies are Solarion CNI Creative Centre (Indonesia), Top Points Trading (Oman), CHINT Solar Bangladesh (China) and Suntech Energy, Bengal Solar JV, Copenhagen Urban Solar Parks BD Consortium (Denmark), BAY Trina Consortium (China), and Lesso Consortium (Singapore).
Among them, the lead partner of Copenhagen Urban Solar Parks BD consortium and BAY Trina Consortium's lead partner is BAY Group concern BAY Emporium.
Lesso Consortium's lead partner is Lesso Energy Development while BAY Trina Consortium's technical partner is China's Trina Solar.
Besides, Bengal Solar participated in the tender jointly with a foreign company. However, the name of the foreign company was not identified.
Rooftops and lease conditions
The tenure of the lease will be for 20 years with a possibility of extension on the basis of the satisfactory performance of the first lease, according to tender documents.
After the completion of the tenure, the ownership of the solar park will be transferred to the BJMC.
The documents say the thirteen jute mills are in Chattogram, Khulna and Rajshahi regions and their factories and warehouses have a total of 63 lakh square feet of space.
"Usually, around 70,000 square feet of space is required to establish a 1MW solar rooftop facility," said Md Shahriar Ahmed Chowdhury, director of the Centre for Energy Research at United International University.
Therefore, it is expected to harness around 90MW of solar electricity from available spaces in the 13 jute mills, he said.
At present, Bangladesh gets a total of 154MW of electricity from 2,161 rooftop solar systems.
Of that, 84.588MW comes from rooftop net metering facilities – meaning the facility can supply electricity to the national grid when it produces more than it consumes.
Rooftop facilities of 69.934MW were established without net metering, according to official data from the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority.
What bidders expect
Md Abu Saleh, managing director of Copenhagen Urban Solar, one of the bidders, emphasised that rooftop solar parks are the optimal choice as they conserve land resources.
Besides, foreign investment in this park will boost the country's economy, with a primary focus on foreign investment as the key driver, he said.
"We've applied for all mill leases in two tenders due to our technical expertise and partnership with foreign firms," stated Abu Saleh.
"Approximately 80%-90% of the total investment in rooftop solar parks will come from FDI, totalling $40-$50 million for the solar parks," he explained.
"Our analysis suggests these parks can generate 100MW-120MW of electricity," he concluded.