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Operation of Jhimpir wind turbines offers a ray of hope in power gloom

Although the government seems to have no immediate solution to the on-going energy crisis, a ray of hope has emerged with the successful operation of the country’s first wind farm, which has been supplying 500 to 700 megawatt-hour of electricity daily to the national grid for over two months now while another wind power project is set to begin its commercial operation in a few days, a recent visit to the site in Jhimpir showed.

Huge towers of over 60 wind turbines dot a vast area in Jhimpir, a small town in Thatta district and part of the Gharo-Keti Bunder wind energy corridor which, according to experts, has the potential to end the country’s electricity crisis.

“This is the peak period for windy weather. The Sindh wind energy corridor is one of the best sites for power production in the country. The wind here is of excellent quality,” says Syed Tanweer Hasan, manager at the Fauji Fertilizer Company Energy Limited, the first firm to start commercial production of electricity from wind in the country with the help of 33 turbines of 1.5MW each.

The province, Mr Hasan said, could generate up to 50,000MW of electricity from the Gharo-Keti Bunder wind energy corridor whereas the total potential for electricity generation from wind in the country stood at 150,000MW (Pakistan’s total consumption for electricity stands at 18,000MW to 20,000MW).

The other areas having potential for wind power generation include parts of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

“The project is being looked at as a role model by other firms that have made a beeline for investment in wind farms,” he said, adding that wind energy production depended on wind velocity while one megawatt of energy was enough to electrify a thousand homes.

The company started work on the 50MW project in 2006 after receiving a letter of intent from the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) that allocated land for the project the next year. The process was followed by collection of site surveys, detailed data on wind and preparation of a feasibility study and signing of agreements with a joint consortium of wind turbine manufacturer based in Germany, a country currently leading the world’s wind market. The project cost about $134 million and was connected to the 132kV national grid on May 16.

“Twenty-five of 80-metre tall towers of the wind turbines are locally manufactured with the help of foreign expertise at a workshop in Karachi. The technology for manufacturing the blades (each 38-metre long), however, could not be transferred as the foreign firm involved in the project was not ready for it,” Mr Hasan explained.

Fastest growing energy technology Elaborating upon wind energy’s benefits, Asif Aziz, an electrical engineer working as a senior executive at the wind farm, said that wind energy had been the fastest growing energy technology worldwide, achieving an annual growth rate of over 30 per cent as it was getting more efficient and cheaper day by day.

“It seems to be an expensive venture but the cost of electricity being produced by wind farms would decrease with each passing year contrary to the cost of energy produced by non-renewable sources. For instance, currently our tariff rate is Rs13.7/KWh but that would fall to Rs5KWh after 11 years as no fuel cost is involved in case of wind energy,” he said.

The cheap energy, he said, also had the additional benefits of being clean, sustainable with absolutely no harmful effects on the environment. The wind turbines have a life of 20 years and could be easily maintained.

“Besides, a whole wind power plant could be set up within a year. China and India had set up 13,200MW and 3,200MW of wind farms last year,” he said.

Another wind farm having a capacity of 56.4MW is set to start operation in a few days, said Syed Mumtaz Hasan, representing the Zorlu Enerji Pakistan (a Turkish company).

“In fact, we were the first to install wind turbines in Jhimpir. However, the project got suspended when lenders backed off and we had to stop our work in the middle. However, we were back at work after the firm got assistance from other banks,” Mr Hasan said, adding that electricity generation from wind farms could go up to 300MW after the project’s expansion.

According to investors, the government needs to upgrade its grid lines so that electricity could be directly transferred from wind farms to its system as is happening abroad. Right now, sub-stations for converting wind energy into high voltage current are needed for supply to the national grid.

Regarding the progress on wind farms, Sheeraz Anwar Khan, head of the AEDB’s camp office in Karachi, said that at least three more companies had started civil/foundation work for installation of wind turbines in Jhimpir after signing agreements with the government.

“A Chinese company that intends to set up a 50MW wind power unit has recently opened a workshop in the same area for manufacturing towers of wind turbines. Nine firms have completed their feasibility studies, seven are awaiting land allocation while feasibility studies of at least seven firms are under process. Letters of intent have been issued to nine other companies,” he said.

Under an agreement with the government, the firms had to transfer/sell electricity to the national grid on a fixed rate, he said.

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