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Used wind turbines seen as answer to Sindh’s energy woes

In compliance with the president’s directive, the federal government is planning to buy second-hand wind turbines from European companies to meet Sindh’s energy needs.

The water and power ministry gave a presentation to President Asif Ali Zardari at Bilawal House in September on used wind turbines that were now available at cheap rates in Europe, the US and even in India, according to official documents obtained by The News on Tuesday.

In the presentation, it was pointed out that many European countries, especially where there was limited land availability, were replacing their existing wind turbines with newer, larger and more efficient ones so that the space they had could be used for greater power generation. The older turbines in these countries are now available at a fraction of the price of the newer ones.

The water and power ministry noted that Africa was buying many of these used turbines. It stressed the need for utilising the “time-bound opportunity” as there was only a limited number of second-hand turbines.

The ministry also proposed that the Sindh government should prepare a policy to allow used wind turbines in the wind corridor of the province.

The president later directed that a policy should be developed to allow used wind turbines.

The Sindh chief minister and the chief secretary agreed at the meeting that they would provide the “necessary facilitation” for the project.

Subsequently, a meeting of the stakeholders, including the departments concerned of both the federal and provincial governments, was recently held at the Sindh Secretariat to chalk out a road map for the early implementation of the president’s directives. The participants of the meeting were informed that research, developments and deployments had resulted in enormous advancement in the wind energy technology in the recent decades. Bigger and more efficient turbines are being designed and manufactured that can produce the same amount of energy while consuming lesser acreage.

This latest technology has provided the wind farm owners with the opportunity to replace their older turbines with the newer versions.

Many companies are buying the old turbines at cheap prices, overhauling them and selling them. It was pointed out at the meeting that several companies in Europe and four in the US were offering refurbished wind turbines. Recently, an Indian firm has also started offering such turbines at a fraction of the cost of new ones.

It was observed that if a turbine was properly rebuilt, every part from 80 or 100 feet tower to the blades could be restored to last for 20 years.

Reservations

However, there were many reservations raised during the meeting over the plan.

“It’s not rocket science,” a participant remarked. “If the refurbishing is shoddy, the results could be disastrous.”

It was noted that improper maintenance or repairs coupled with strong winds could cause an old wind turbine to spin out of control and explode, sometimes sending its blades half a mile away.

A crucial aspect of buying used turbines is that it does not come with a warranty unlike the new one.

The buyers are never sure about the quality of the workmanship that has been used to overhaul the turbines.

These turbines require more maintenance to ensure continuous operations. The supply of spare parts can also become a hurdle in their smooth functioning. The participants of the meeting were informed that it was hard for buyers and regulators to go ahead with the project due to these reasons. As the operational efficiency of the used wind turbines cannot be guaranteed, nobody is willing to finance the project.

It was observed that most used wind turbines were bought for personal use, community power, schools, hospitals and water pumping. There are very few instances of used turbines being used by independent power producers.

Advantages

The advantages of using second-hand wind turbines pointed out at the meeting are: the turbines are available in abundance at a fraction of the price of the newer ones, the delivery time is less and lower cost means lower investment and lower production cost, resulting in cheap power.

Disadvantages 

Several disadvantages were also pointed out: the used turbines are not state-of-the-art technology that means they will be less efficient, they will be between five and 10 years old so that their remaining life will be less and their spare parts might be difficult to find in later years.

Apart from these disadvantages, there are also certain policy barriers. The existing policy did not allow the use of second-hand turbines by independent power producers, the Nepra upfront tariff is not applicable to them and fiscal incentives are also not available. A senior official, requesting anonymity, told The News that it would be unwise to buy used wind turbines. “When the world is adopting th

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