Technical issues of solar home systems in rural Bangladesh: a post-installation survey

Bangladesh represents a promising model for off-grid solar photovoltaic-based rural electrification. Despite high costs of the system and the resulting unit price of electricity, solar home systems (SHS) have proved to be popular among the target consumers in off grid locations. However, questions remain on the post-installation efficiency of the systems, which are usually put together by local solution providers using components sourced from a variety of sources, both home and abroad. To understand the technical landscape of the nationwide SHS implementation in Bangladesh, an audit of a sample of 60 geographically distributed SHS units was carried out through field and laboratory testing. The study units were selected from a pool of about 200,000 SHSs ranging from 21-85 kWp. The installations were part of the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERDP), implemented by the government of Bangladesh owned subsidiary Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL). Findings from the study indicate that there were variations in sizing and matching of the component parts, deviations from the specified quality standards, faulty installations and poor servicing regimes. The reasons behind the technical shortcomings are investigated and described in this paper. It is envisaged that the lessons learned can also be implemented beyond the borders of Bangladesh, in particular in countries with similar circumstances; i.e. with respect to governance, financial and regulatory frameworks and human resources capital.