Young entrepreneurs for clean energy

WORLD ENVIORNMENT DAY 2018

Globally, when the trend is to divest from nuclear and coal based power generation, the government of Bangladesh has proposed an energy mix that still relies on coal. In this context, young entrepreneurs and researchers are exploring the possibilities and potential for renewable energy. Jawad Hasan and Niloy Das are two inspiring names in this regard. They have invested their emotional, intellectual labour on clean energy, writes Nahid Riyasad.

Wind turbine designed, developed and installed by GREEVO at Inani, Cox's Bazar.

Wind turbine designed, developed and installed by GREEVO at Inani, Cox’s Bazar.

With economic development, particularly in the industrial sectors, comes great demands for energy. In order to meet the growing energy demand of Bangladesh, the present government has designed a master plan which is known as the Power Sector Master Plan 2016. According to this plan, the government is hoping to face the demand of 245 terawatt hour of energy by 2041. To do so, the authority is planning to harness 57000 megawatt- 11.3 per cent from local natural gas, 23.7 per cent from liquefied natural gas, 35 per cent from coal, import and renewable energy  add up to 15 per cent, nuclear energy 10 percent and oil will produce 5 per cent.

Environmentally hazardous medium of energy generation is prioritised in the PSMP energy mix. In this context, young entrepreneurs are coming up with ideas of generating energy from renewable and green sources such as solar or air. On the eve of World Environment Day 2018, New Age Youth have spoken to Jawad Hasan and Niloy Das who have innovated environment friendly solutions to meet the energy demands of everyday people in Bangladesh.

 

‘Wind has more potential in Bangladesh than it is perceived by stakeholders’

Jawad Hasan

Young researcher, founder and CEO of Greevo

Jawad Hasan in front of his wind turbine in Inani.

Jawad Hasan in front of his wind turbine in Inani.

Many experts have denied the possibility of producing wind power in Bangladesh on the basis of poor wind speed. Also, the failure of Kutubdia one-megawatt wind power plant further fueled this misconstrued assumption. However, this project failed because of mismanagement, poor maintenance and administrative failure. In reality, the introduction of newer technology can indicate an entirely different scenario. Using the 700 kilometer coastal line of southern part, with the existing technology and wind speed, Bangladesh can produce as much as 5000 megawatt electricity from wind power with the help of an energy park, media reports said.

Jawad Hasan has been a dreamer since his young age. He always wanted to make a difference for those who are underprivileged. To make that happen, he completed his post-graduation in engineering and obtained a research assistantship at Independent University. During his research, he successfully developed small wind turbines that could efficiently harness energy even from low wind conditions.

To fulfill his dream, he rejected a doctorate offer from a Scottish university and founded GREEVO in 2015. In 2016, GREEVO installed the first Bangladeshi made wind turbine in a village named Ruppoti in Cox’s Bazar. The turbine is operational since then and harnessing energy from wind.

Jawad, during a conversation with New Age Youth, expressed his struggle during the development stage of his project, ‘These two years while we designed and constructed the wind turbine was very challenging. I studied electrical engineering in my bachelor and master but that was not enough. Wind turbines are very complex. They have electrical, mechanical, civil and meteorological sciences involved. Almost everything was new to me. I studied and at the same time, I kept on looking for people to build the team. I had no workplace or machineries to construct the components. I rented few places but things were taking a lot of time. At one point, I got kicked out of one workplace. Then I had no other place to construct the turbine. So I eventually had to work in my garage to complete the construction.’

After all these hurdles, the fruit of his struggle was really a sweet success. ‘There are 25 households and a primary school in Ruppoti. After getting access to electricity, the primary school can now afford using fans, laptops ad projectors. They are connected to the global highway through the internet now and they are utilising the resources to learn new things every day. Electricity access has also enabled farmers to use water pumps,’ Jawad described how uplifting that particular moment was of bringing wind power to a remote neglected community.

However, he expressed his frustration that no government agencies have noticed his project that is providing green energy. Some private companies have contacted him but are not willing to invest based on one pilot project. Jawad said that private companies want the government to invest in startup phases.

Jawad elaborately discussed the efficiency of his project, ‘Our 10KW capacity wind turbine has been designed considering the number of households in a typical village. Additional solar systems could be integrated with our wind turbines to enhance the capacity of the overall system. Our turbines could also be used to set up mini/micro-grids. The overall performance will increase and the cost for energy will decrease significantly if the plants have additional renewable energy sources like solar/biogas/hydro.’

Jawad knew this is only the beginning and shared his future plans, ‘We are currently working on more class-4 wind turbine designs for low wind speeds. At the same time, we are developing the integration of multiple renewable power sources. I firmly believe it will help us to lower the electricity bills for people living in the remote areas of the country.’

In Jawad’s view, renewable energy has a brighter future in the context of Bangladesh and he states, ‘The recently revealed wind mapping data in nine locations of the country is very promising. A large amount of waste gets dumped every day in the major cities of the country. The hill tracts in Chittagong have many small streams that are potential for small scale hydro.’

 

‘Renewable energy is a wide arena of technologies which demands localised solution’

Niloy Das

Young researcher, CEO of Surge Engineering

Niloy Das.The rural parts of Bangladesh are mostly off the grid of the main fuel source — natural gas. As a result, they mainly harness energy from woods thus triggering deforestation. In order to battle the condition, a group of young researchers have developed a portable, user friendly and low cost bio-gas plant. The Portable Biogas Plant is a lightweight biogas plant that generates biogas from organic wastes. It is made of flexible plastic material which makes it easy to carry.

The PBP is the brainchild of Niloy Das, chief executive officer of Surge Engineering and a young researcher. During a discussion session with New Age Youth, he described the uniqueness of their project, ‘Our portable biogas plants have three distinct characteristics which make us different from other available options in the market. Firstly, our plants are less than 10 kilograms which makes it really easy to transport even in remote areas. Secondly, a typical biogas plant needs at least seven days to install, whereas, ours is plug and play — within mere two hours, your plant is good to go. And thirdly, our plants are extremely easy to operate and very low in maintenance cost.’

Niloy shared his concern about the environment of Bangladesh that in fact encouraged pursuing his dream of providing green energy. ‘The environment of Bangladesh is deteriorating day by day. We can experience it by degradation of air quality, increase of sea level, deforestation, and similar indications. One of the reasons of climate change is the growing use of fossil fuel. So, to keep the environment livable, we need to develop alternative source of fuel technology —green technology. We experienced that green technology is not widely used in Bangladesh because of the scarcity of localised version of these technologies. So developing green energy sources with local technology and knowledge was the main reason for us to become interested in green technology,’ he said. Niloy’s view towards nature and our environment is also evident in Surge Engineering’s website, where, their mission is stated as ‘to develop a low cost energy solution which would solve the severe energy crisis in Bangladesh.’

First design of Portable Biogas Plant developed by Surge Engineering.

First design of Portable Biogas Plant developed by Surge Engineering.

His journey, however, was not a smooth one. Niloy and his team had to go through difficult times while developing their product as well as convincing investors. ‘The struggle was to source funds and logistics to develop a new technology. The struggle escalated further while convincing the policy makers, investors and other stakeholders in adopting the concept, establishing the business viability, and above all, validating the technology’, he said. Niloy also shared how they managed to overcome these obstacles, ‘For this, we had to start the product development using own funds. Eventually the work was disrupted for the lack of fund, infrastructure, and logistics. We had to overcome each challenge with innovative solutions.’

Surge’s efforts started back in 2016 and they had to develop their prototype products with their own funding. From 2017, Dr Saiful Huq, director of Institute of Energy, University of Dhaka was passionate enough to extend his support with guidance, laboratory and logistics in this project. Recently, their project has been selected for a grant from IDEA project which is funded by the government.

The young entrepreneur’s visions are not restricted to Bangladesh only. After successfully meeting the demand of our market, Surge Engineering has plans to export their technology. ‘We have already collaborated with few organisations in Germany, Finland and France to take it to global scale. In Bangladesh, we have affiliation with Institute of Energy & IDEA project to execute this plant’, Niloy informs.

A young enthusiastic dreamer like Niloy has already sketched his company’s future plans which include introducing something new to Bangladesh, ‘In future, our plan is to integrate energy technology with software industry that means to introduce — Energy Analytics in Bangladesh,’ Niloy elaborates on the future work of Surge Engineers, ‘we suffer from insufficient data on energy sector. As a result, we cannot plan, design and implement appropriate technology or project. The concept of energy analytics is to collect, store, analyse and create insights using data analysis. Energy analytics can create the bridge between energy sector and software industry. Our team is now developing the hardware to collect and transmit data to the server and software to analyse and generate insight using that data.’

Niloy also talked about the future of green energy for Bangladesh. In his view it is important to localise existing technologies to make it more accessible and affordable for the locals.  He said, ‘As a professional in energy sector, I can see very good prospect of renewable energy in Bangladesh. Renewable energy is a wide arena of technologies which demands localised solution for the proper utilization. We need to select appropriate technology according to our geography, climate and capability. Among the technologies, I can see very good prospect of solar, biogas and wind turbine technology. Moreover, mini hydro power & geo-thermal can be a good solution which is not yet explored in Bangladesh.’

Both of the young researchers advised that the government should encourage renewable energy entrepreneurs through their policies.  The authority should also increase the budget for research in the field of renewable energy which will pay back in the long turn.

Both of the entrepreneurs seemed highly critical of the PSMP 2016. Niloy thinks that government has put noticeably less importance on renewable energy sources like geothermal energy which could be very effective in Bangladesh. On the other hand, Jawad critiqued the government plan, ‘A separate coal division in the 21st century seems pretty laid back. In about 20-30 years we will face global pressures for running these coal based plants because of the horrific impacts of climate change’.

 

Portable Biogas Plant was nominated to attend SLUSH startup event at Helsinki, Finland on 2017.

Portable Biogas Plant was nominated to attend SLUSH startup event at Helsinki, Finland on 2017.

In the context of global warming, a team of researchers from the Stanford University has been working on a project since 2011 to find a clean energy mix to meet the global demand. They have published their report in 2017 that titled ‘100% Clean and Renewable Wind, Water and Sunlight All-Sector Energy Roadmaps for 139 Countries of the World’. According to this report, electricity price will hit 9.40 TK per unit by 2015 with the conventional fuel, whereas, solar-water-wind energy mix can produce the same energy for 5.59 TK per unit (Jacobson et al., 2017).

In another research by the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis suggests that ‘a robust government endorsement of a transformational US$15-20bn investment program in renewables, smart grid and energy efficiency by 2024/25 is likely to find strong international financial system support to develop long-term deflationary energy supply’ (Buckley, Nicholas and Ahmed, 2916).

There are ample researches and expert opinions that have indicated that Bangladesh has enormous potentiality in producing clean, green and renewable energy. However, the government has opted for more expensive and environmentally hazardous energy mix relying heavily on coal based energy generation.  It is surprising that when globally the trend is coal divestment, Bangladesh is leaning towards coal based energy generation.

In this dark time, young entrepreneurs and researchers as Jawad Hasn and Niloy Das show us hope. They are walking against the wind. They have invested their emotional, intellectual labour on clean energy to prove that renewable energy has more potential in Bangladesh than it is projected in our government plan.

 

Nahid Riyasad is a member of the New Age Youth team.

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