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Exploring wind energy as a viable alternative

There has been an enormous increase in global demand for energy in recent years as a result of industrial development, population growth and enhanced lifestyles. Supply of energy is, therefore, far less than its actual demand. Pakistan requires around 15,000 to 20000 MW electricity per day to meet its growing needs. But currently it is able to produce only about 11,000 MW per day, creating a shortfall of about 4000 to 9000 MW. This shortage that is shooting up during summers, mainly due to the use of air conditioners, is badly hampering economic growth of the country. Increasing electricity tariffs due to surging oil prices have put a negative momentum on manufacturing and industrial sector due to high costs of production. In value-added export sector alone, Pakistan is losing $10 billion every year due to power shortage.

Pakistan’s energy consumption is met by a mix of gas, oil, electricity, coal and LPG sources with different level of shares. The share of gas consumption stood at 43.7 per cent, followed by oil at 29 per cent, electricity at 15.3 per cent, coal at 10.4 per cent and LPG at 1.5 per cent. The cheapest source of electricity is hydro power generation that is costing Rs2 per unit whereas the electricity produced by petrol driven IPPs as expensive at a cost of Rs14 per unit. It is unfortunate that in our national grid 64 per cent of electricity comes through IPPs, while the share of power generation through hydro petroleum stands at 34 per cent only.

When the current government took up office back in 2008, people were worried about the electricity shortage due to 4-6 hours of daily load-shedding. However, over the last three and half years, power cuts have crossed 18 hours a day. Last three years are a saga of broken promises, un-kept pledges, misplaced priorities and a directionless journey to nowhere in terms of the power crisis. Industrial production is suffering, exports are on the decline, jobs are being lost, and the national economy is in a . By all indications, the power crisis in Pakistan is getting worse than ever. If the present PPP-led government had followed through with an aggressive renewable energy push soon after taking office, Pakistan could have been an Asian leader in renewable energy given its natural resources with wind and solar sources as its strategic endowments. Leakages caused due to a poor recovery system and antiquated infrastructure has further worsened the situation. The government has decided to invite heads of loss-making distribution companies (DISCOS) for explanation of high losses as well as independent power producers (IPPs) to discuss a roadmap for clearance of their Rs150 billion dues against PEPCO. It includes Rs39 billion from Sindh and KP each, Rs36 billion from KESC and Rs9 billion from Punjab. Reasons for a financial crunch in the energy sector includes a gap between permitted losses and actual losses, non-recovery of receivable and huge line losses of various DISCOS leading to a mounting circular debt.

It is pertinent to put on record that responding to the looming energy crisis of Pakistan in 2006; the government at that time recognised the need and the potential for renewable alternatives. Therefore, Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB), to pursue the path of renewable energy, is focusing on wind and solar sources as viable alternatives. Ever since its formation, AEDB has been half-heartedly setting up small renewable energy projects for promoting the use of renewable energy in the country’s power generation mix. But during the current regime, it stopped well short of bringing any significant change on the energy landscape of Pakistan. The simple mechanism of wind power is that it harnesses power of the wind to propel blades of wind turbines. These turbines cause rotation of magnets, which creates electricity. Though Pakistan has a potential to produce wind energy ranging from 10000 MW to 50000 MW, power generation through wind is in initial stages in the country and currently a project in its first phase has been installed in Jhampir, through a Turkish company, and 50 MW will be installed shortly. By setting up wind farms, more wind power plants can be built immediately in Jhampir, Gharo, Keti Bandar and Bin Qasim Karachi.

According to an article written by Miriam Katz, “The Feasibility of Renewable Energy in Pakistan,” our country is fortunate to have something many other countries do not. High speed of wind near major centers. Around the capital Islamabad, wind speed ranges between 6.2 to 7.4 meters per second (between 13.8 and 16.5 miles per hour). Similarly, in the port city of Karachi, the range is between 6.2 and 6.9 (between 13.8 and 15.4 miles per hour). In addition to Karachi and Islamabad, there are other areas in Pakistan that experience a significant amount of wind. From the wind energy perspective, experts say that the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh have sufficient wind supply to power every coastal village in the country. There also exists an air corridor between Gharo and Keti Bandar that could alone produce between 40,000 and 50,000 megawatts of electricity through wind energy projects.Given this surplus potential, Pakistan has much to offer Asia with regards to wind energy. This situation is ideal for wind energy projects. Pakistan is also very fortunate to have many rivers and lakes. Wind turbines that are situated in or near water enjoy an uninterrupted flow of wind, which virtually guarantees availability of power at all times. A globally reputed wind turbine manufacturing company, Suzlon, has set up its unit in neighbouring India from where turbines can be imported at a much cheaper rate with lesser shipment time. In the meanwhile, Pakistan can begin to build its own wind-turbine industry and create thousands of new jobs while solving its energy problems.

Wind energy is an ideal renewable energy due to a number of lateral benefits arising out of its production. It is a pollution-free, infinitely sustainable form of energy which doesn’t require fuel. It doesn’t create greenhouse gases as it doesn’t produce toxic or radioactive waste products. Wind energy is noise-free which does not present any significant hazard to birds or wildlife. It is less occupying in a sense that when large arrays of wind turbines are installed on a wind farm, only about three per cent of land area is required for wind turbines to operate while remaining area of the land is available for cultivation, livestock, and other uses. It gives substantial supplementary income to landowners who often receive payments for use of their land. This enhances their incomes and increases the value of the land. This practice is carried out in India and a number of other countries. Ownership of wind turbine generators by individuals and the community allows people to participate directly in the preservation of our environment. Each megawatt-hour of electricity that is generated through wind energy helps reduce 1 to 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions that are otherwise produced by coal or diesel fuel generation each year.

The article by Miriam Katz I mentioned earlier offers a comprehensive comparison of wind potential around the world. Acording to the article, despite having less potential for wind as compared to Pakistan, India has the world’s fourth largest number of wind turbines installed. The number stands at 7,093 MW according to report. Ahead of India are Germany at 21,283 MW, Spain at 13,400 MW and the US at 12,934 MW. Individuals who install wind turbines and solar panels in Germany, Spain and India are guaranteed a certain rate per kilowatt hour.

In India, this varies according to the technology and the area. The reports that in most areas, between 2500 and 4800 rupees are guaranteed for solar panels, and for wind turbines, between 250,000 and 300,000 rupees are awarded.

Because of the above incentives, the cost of wind in India is between 2 and 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour while in Pakistan, the cost is 7 cents due to lack of state incentives.

Pakistan Meteorological Department has conducted a detailed Wind Power Potential Survey of Coastal Areas of Pakistan and Ministry of Science and Technology has provided required funding for this purpose. The feasibility study has identified potential areas in Sindh where economically feasible wind farms can be established. It is interesting to note that Sindh coastal areas have greater wind power potential than Balochistan coastal areas. Potential areas cover 9700 square kilometers in Sindh. The gross wind power potential of this area is 43000 MW and keeping in view the area utilisation constraints, the exploitable electric power generation potential of this area is estimated to be about 11000MW. Generally, a wind farm located in an area with good winds and having a typical value of capacity factor i.e. 25 per cent at least are economically viable. The expected life of wind turbine is 25 to 30 years. Maintenance is required once or twice a year. The returns from investments in this sector are very much dependent on government policies, both in terms of provided incentives and the taxation structure imposed on businesses. In a nutshell, the introduction of wind power generation is totally dependent on the political leadership of the country to pull its masses out of the darkness of load shedding.

Farakh Shahzad

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