Sri Lanka Says No to Thermal Power Plant, Opts for Solar Energy Instead

An island nation in South Asia, Sri Lanka is primarily dependent on its 900 MW coal-based power plant in Norocholai, located 90 miles to the north of Colombo. However, a series of technical breakdowns at the $1.4 billion worth Chinese-made plant, resulted in nationwide power outages and forced the country to look at other options. India offered to build a thermal power plant at Sampur in Trincomalee, but the Ministry of Power and Energy turned down the offer, citing environmental concerns.

Sri Lanka's commitment to the Paris Agreement

Sri Lanka is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, and has promised to bring down 0.05% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Maithripala Sirisena, the President of Sri Lanka, launched the Soorya Bala Sangramaya (translated as ‘Battle for Solar Energy’) initiative in September 2016, hoping to add 220 MW by 2020. About 1,000 MW is expected to be added to the grid by 2025. This involves PV solar panels on rooftops, and millions of homes are expected to become net producers of electricity. The country’s Ceylon Electricity Board is offering fixed-price purchase contracts of 22 Lankan rupees for every kilowatt-hour produced for the first seven years and 15.5 Lankan rupees for the same unit of electricity for the next thirteen years.

These figures are too small to be expressed in U.S. dollars. But roughly, it works out to $150 for every MWh (this is for the first seven years) and $105 after that; more or less in tune with the global average of $125. This shows how truly affordable this source of energy can be for them when generated effectively.

Shri Lanka does receive a large degree of insulation as the country lies only a few degrees north of the equator. It’s total energy production generally works out to 4,000 MW. Of this, the majority is from hydroelectric power plants. But owing to climate change, a drought-like situation has affected the island, forcing it to rely on the Norocholai power plant for its energy needs. As of now, renewable energy sources add up to 152 MW of the country’s total output.

It has only one solar power plant (this is PV-based) at Hambantota, and its output is a meager 1.2 MW. The rest are from wind energy, but there are often difficulties with transmission owing to the grid being incapable of handling such loads. Because of the lack of renewable energy sources bwing utilized to the optimum, the country subsequently has to face 90 minutes of power blackout every day at present. A 600 MW nuclear power plant is under consideration by the Ceylon Electricity Board, which also manages the Norocholai power station and the country’s dams that generate hydroelectricity. If approved, the nuclear plant will be ready by 2031.

To embrace solar energy

Solar Magazine: Solar Industry News and Insights

After they said no to an other coal-powered plant, Narendra Modi , the Prime Minister of India, reached out to Sirisena, this time, offering to build a solar power plant at the proposed site of the thermal power plant. Trincomalee is a coastal city, and its solar power generation potential has been estimated to be 2,100 kWh per square meter. For its part, Sri Lanka is keen on a photovoltaic power plant, as opposed to concentrated solar power, which generates energy at an average of $240 per MWh worldwide. comment↓


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