Although Bangladesh has succeeded in overcoming its power and energy crisis in the last decade, it could not materialise its dream of meaningfully rolling out green power projects, due to a number of problems.
The biggest problem facing Bangladesh is inadequate land for solar power - which requires three acres of land for generation of one-megawatt power; or lack of understanding of the potential of wind power. Other green energy options in Bangladesh are negligible.
In the last decade, the government awarded a number of solar power projects. But only a few of them could materialise their projects. Some contract winners tried to tie up with government agencies to install solar panels on unused shoals—so that they could build a plant that could generate 100 megawatts plus power. But these did not work.
Local experts say unless there is a major breakthrough in solar power technology, Bangladesh will never meaningfully tap solar power. Land is precious in Bangladesh and as it's very pricey, covering arable land with a solar panel for power generation is not a great idea.
But there are other ideas in the world that Bangladesh should look at.
South Korea has built a 32km highway between Daejon and Sejong with a bike lane covered with a solar roof panel.
The concept of solar highway is being tested over the last decade in different countries. In the Netherlands, a pilot project on a highway was launched in 2019 and then oil giant Shell proposed building a 48MW solar system on a highway, subject to government approval.
Meanwhile, German and Austrian researchers are conducting a three-year study to see whether the German 13,000km of Autobahn network could be covered with canopies fitted with solar power systems. They primarily estimate that it is possible to create a capacity of 56gigawatts of power.
This much Photovoltaic canopy could produce some 47TWh of clean energy per year, according to Martin Heinrich, head of the PV module products team at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE).
In Georgia of the USA, another photovoltaic roadway system was unveiled last year that produces energy for solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations.
The South Korean government is doing something that Bangladesh could closely observe and learn. Its land ministry currently operates around 319 solar arrays with 149 MW capacity at several idle sites managed by the Korea Expressway Corporation.
The ministry has decided to give private companies the opportunity to lease other idle sites for 20 years to deploy their projects.
The South Korean government aims to deploy around 30 MW of solar in 2021 and 243 MW by 2025.
While solar highways can be an ideal solution for the land crisis, their downside is comparatively higher maintenance of the panels. Highways generate a lot of dust and pollution that would gather on the solar panels - affecting their efficiency. Keeping the panels clean would add some extra cost.
The idea of solar highways has been discussed casually at the policy level of Bangladesh - but it has not been seriously looked into.
Right now Bangladesh has deployed a large number of development projects that include the construction and expansion of several highways. This is the time for the government to think of including solar panels on highways, to move towards generating green energy, and making green energy at least 10 percent of the total energy mix.