In Bangladesh, homeowners sell surplus solar electricity

Bangladesh is one of the world’s leaders in solar home systems for off-grid communities, with more than 5 million of the systems now in place. But that’s not all. In Bangladesh, owners of home solar powered systems earn money by trading their surplus electricity earning a much-needed extra income during the pandemic.

SOLshare, a company that helps owners trade their surplus electricity, recently won an international award for climate change innovation. “We have created a device that can share the surplus energy and help people earn money for it,” said Salma Islam, a project manager at SOLshare, based in Dhaka, according to a report in Reuters.

Using an electronic unit installed alongside their solar system, owners can transfer excess energy into a local power “microgrid” created with other SOLshare users, allowing those who need more power to buy it. “If someone puts the device on automode it will automatically start selling energy once its (battery is) full,” Islam said.

SOLshare officials said they have set up 27 “microgrids” in communities that have installed their devices across Bangladesh. A majority of their roughly 3,000 customers – most of them farmers – earn less than $5 a day, they said. The company is also in talks with the United Nation’s refugee agency to create similar microgrids in the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar, home to more than 800,000 ethnic Rohingya refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar.

SOLshare officials said they hope to scale up their business to allow at least 100,000 Bangladeshis to share solar power over the next five years. One of those who has benefited from the technology is Bimal Krishna Das, 40, who said his pharmacy business in Barisal, about 250 kms from Dhaka, had taken a hit from the coronavirus pandemic. By selling electricity, he said, he was able to raise extra funds he desperately needed. “It’s such a relief to have some extra money in your pocket during this crisis,” he said.

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