With the installation of 3,400 solar panels, the Fatima Jinnah Park in Islamabad – Pakistan’s largest public park – was attracting more and more visitors for recreational and physical fitness activities at night. The city authorities installed 3,400 solar panels on a 2.5-hectare parcel of the 300-hectare (750-acre) park, at a cost of $4.8 million in December last.
The system aims to provide a constant power supply to one of the city’s key recreational attractions at a time when power cuts remain a major problem due to shortfalls on the grid, a news report published in a section of media on Thursday said. Mushtaq Khan, a 48-year-old bank manager, used to enjoy his nightly jog in Islamabad’s huge Fatima Jinnah Park – until worsening power cuts two years ago began plunging him into darkness mid-stride, forcing him to run in the morning instead.
Now, however, new large-scale solar lighting for Islamabad’s largest public park has let Khan return to his old schedule – and he no longer worries about running into porcupines or wild boar in the dark, the report said. “After learning that a new solar system now provides uninterrupted power to the entire electric system round-the- clock, I have swapped back the jogging schedule from morning to evening,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a brief pause in his evening run.
The solar installation, which produces 870 kilowatts of electricity – enough to power the equivalent of 450 homes – runs water pumps and sprinkler systems for the park, and provides power for the offices of the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) and Capital Development Authority (CDA), both located within the park. The initiative, financed with a grant from China, uses batteries to store solar energy to meet lighting and other electricity needs 24 hours a day, the report quoted IMC chairman Anser Aziz Sheikh as saying.
As solar energy extends the hours the park can be used – and powers irrigation to keep its flowers and other plants in top condition, as well as rides in the children’s playground – officials say visitors who had abandoned it are returning. “We are seeing more and more visitors coming back to the park for recreational and physical fitness activities,” Sheikh said, noting that solar power “has restored life to the park”.