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Friday, July 19, 2024  
13 Muharram 1446  

UKAA’S solar initiatives powering Karachi varsities

Dow University official says the initiative enables them to save up to 50% of electricity
Photo via author
Photo via author

“As the chairperson of Applied Chemistry in 2019, I was informed about UKAA funding through a fellow Professor in the Physics department. I proposed to UKAA that implementing a solar project in our department would help power bulbs and fans during evening power outages,” said Dr Riaz Ahmed, Associate Professor of Applied Chemistry at Karachi University and member of Syndicate.

In 2019, a solar system was installed at Applied Chemistry and Chemical Technology through the UKAA grant. A total of 29 solar panels, each with a 10-kilowatt capacity, were installed to provide power to classrooms and laboratories.

Annually, UKAA, the University of Karachi Alumni Association, holds a fundraising event in Baltimore, US. Alumni of KU generously contribute funds. The collected donations are then allocated towards scholarships, scientific equipment for laboratories as well as various other educational projects.

Dr. Shamim A Qureshi, Secretary UKAA scholarships selection committee, said that the UKAA adopted the Solar Energy Expansion Programme in three universities including Karachi University, NED University of Engineering & Technology, and Dow University of Health Sciences in 2019.

The pioneering effort was followed by the implementation of grid-tied solar systems with capacities of 32.5KW, 30KW, and 20KW, spanning across the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Pharmacy Faculty, and the Microbiology Department in KU.

Dr. Qureshi said that the funds are directly transferred to the vendor responsible for installing solar panels.

“This method is employed to prevent any instances of corruption and to ensure that the money is exclusively utilised for its designated purpose,” she added.

UKAA has installed solar panels worth Rs9.6 million across four departments of Karachi University.

The institute is responsible for the maintenance of these solar panels, Dr. Qureshi said, however, she mentioned that in the case of a major fault requiring substantial funding, the UKAA is ready to provide the necessary funds.

Karachi University Vice-chancellor Professor Dr Khalid Iraqi on the solar project’s inauguration announced not only to constitute a solar committee but said he would also head it.

However, Dr. Riaz Ahmed expresses profound disappointment, saying: “Simply forming a committee falls short. Not once has the committee convened for a session.”

He asserts that this lack of action underscores the administration’s nonchalant attitude. Dr. Ahmed revealed that he wrote multiple letters to the VC, highlighting issues like a malfunctioning inverter, but has received no response.

The “administration’s negligence” has resulted in the damage of several solar panels, leading to a significant decrease in their functionality, he said.

He went on to add that the net metering for the on-grid solar system was initially planned, but to date, there has been no agreement finalised with K-Electric.

Karachi University continues to incur ongoing losses due to the delay in finalising the agreement. While the electricity from the grid-tied solar system is being sold to K-Electric, the exact benefits reaped by the university remain unclear.

Dr. Qureshi disclosed that due to inadequate maintenance of the solar system, UKAA has halted funding for additional panels at Karachi University.

However, she emphasised that the initiative could resume if the university demonstrates a commitment to proper upkeep.

Additionally, there is ongoing consideration for the installation of solar panels in the Biochemistry department, indicating a potential expansion of the sustainable energy project, she said.

In parallel to this, a solar project funded by UKAA is running smoothly at DOW University.

Dr. Kartar Dawani, Pro VC DUHS (Retd), said that the varsity in collaboration with UKAA implemented solar projects in the University in 2021.

Ahmed Mujtaba Zaidi, Deputy Manager of Services stated that 50KW of 90 plates are installed at parking areas and department buildings. Each plate has a capacity of 550 watts.

“Net metering has enabled us to save up to 50% of electricity,” he added.

The university actively manages the maintenance of the solar project, with Zaidi emphasising the regular cleaning of solar panels every week. “This helps to ensure the longevity and optimal functionality of the solar installation,” Zaidi said.

He praised UKAA’s initiative and urged them to expand the project throughout the university.

“DUHS is currently relying on K-Electric for power supply. If more solar panels are installed across the building it will not only eliminate the power crisis but will also help to reduce electricity expenses,” he concluded.

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