UNEXPLORED WIND ELECTRICITY

ONLY ELECTRICITY SHORTFALL EXPEDITES SEEKING OF ALTERNATIVE SOURCES

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Apr 07 - 13, 2008

Wind energy has gradually started to become a premier source of generating electricity world over and is utilized steadfastly to lessen the dependence of energy production over bio-fuels amid fast depleting terrestrial resources. While government and private sectors are busy in investing in this renewable energy source, apparently there seems an exercise of corrective rather than proactive measures. As a matter of fact, only electricity shortfall expedites the efforts of seeking alternative sources of energy otherwise consolidated and long term resolutions are not strategically implemented. Price of wind energy is not currently attracting public attention; however, government-assisted mass consumption may bring down the cost ineffectiveness of windmills.

The data compiled to gauge the progress in the alternative resources in Pakistan disclosed unimpressive results. Over the years, the growth in wind energy projects are not noticeably raising; perhaps which is why wind energy has not provided significant substitute over mainly thermal power generation that is an uneconomical and biodegradable mode of producing electricity. Worldwide, wind powered turbines are fast replacing traditional ways of electricity production. The wind energy sector is growing at a marvellous pace in Germany, USA, Spain, India, China and other regions, recorded 27 % growth in 2007 as compared to preceding year. According to the Global World Energy Council, over 20,000 MW of wind turbines were installed in year 2007 raising global capacity to 94,112 MW. The top five countries in terms of installed capacity are Germany (22, 300 MW), USA (16,800 MW), Spain (15,100 MW), India (8000 MW) and China (6,100 MW). The wind energy market in 2007 stood at $36 billion.

COST DEFICIENCY OF WIND-POWERED TURBINE

Presently, the ratio of wind energy utilization even in the potential-laden coastal belts of the nation is abysmally low, causing persistent cost deficiency of wind power projects. Wind electricity can be generated by large and small turbines. While large turbines can be connected to grid stations, small turbines have capacity to meet domestic power needs. Similarly, small turbines can be installed in a house to generate desirable electricity power. The concept of domestic wind energy has not been popularized in on-grid localities for its expensiveness. Muhammad Sarwar, CEO Pak Windpower said wind energy can be cost effective for both households and industries, but especially in later case the cost of utilizing wind electricity is minimal because of the large scale consumption. While talking to this scribe, he said generating one kilowatt electricity through wind turbine costs a household around Rs. 225,000 at an average while the same would cost approximately Rs. 155,000 to a commercial operation. The reason, he told, is the capacity utilization of the turbine.

In spite of this, cost per unit of wind electricity can not be more than Re. 0.50 for domestic use, he stated. Although, the cost of power is not domestically suitable at the present circumstances but it would scale down with the increase in usage. He also thinks that the cost is still suitable for few people who can spend loads of money on luxurious household goods but are shy away spending on basic needs as they have options to manipulate their electricity bills. On the contrary, few industries are efficiently exploiting its wastage wind energy emitting from exhausts to generate electricity. Depending on the size, wind turbine can bear the power load of entire industrial process. He is sure that wind energy can manageably fulfil the total national electricity needs.

POTENTIAL OF PRODUCING 85,000 MW ELECTRICITY

According to an estimate, Pakistan's coastal belt has a godsend yet unexplored potential of 85GW wind energy whereas only close to 1 MW is generated and that is so in majority of remote locations unconnected to main grids. Wind energy requires a certain pressure of winds as compared to fuel for instance to propel the turbine that produces electricity. As many geographical locations of Pakistan have required pressures of winds the windmills projects can be a huge success. He said Pakistan has a potential of producing 85,000 MW electricity through windmills but since 1997, when he joined the profession, the overall production didn't exceed over 1 MW. Not above 700 homes in windy villages of Sindh and Balochistan have so far been electrified through government-financed windmills. Eighty five micro wind turbines have electrified 580 homes in Sindh while 15 micro turbines installed in villages of Balochistan have electrified 111 homes, according to AEDB data. However, government encourages Independent Power Producers to invest in wind energy projects all over the country and has also approved numbers of feasibility studies. The materialization of the studies would take some time.

Wind energy provides a cost-efficient alternative for producing electricity in the wake of rising import bills of crude oil, under capacity utilization of thermal-power plants, and under performing hydel power plants. Besides, home-supported errection of wind turbine has a comparative advantage over several sources of energy. Since many parts and accessories of a turbine are imported from abroad its cost efficiency is considerably affected. According to an expert wind turbine has minimum overhauling and retrofitting expenditures other than periodical oiling and can perform at its optimal for as more as five year.

Although government has given tax incentives on imports and on setting up of windmills sales tax and incomes tax are said to do away the benefits. Unless government can provide cost advantages to consumers wind energy will not be widely used in public. Moreover, public awareness is equally important about the convenience that renewable energy holds so that people would exploit the potentials of natural resource. Costal areas, which have blessings of continuous wind cycle, have basically the unmatchable advantage of location of economies therefore public and private investments must be planned as such. These areas can prove its eligibility to become a bonanza of wind electricity. Moreover, suitable lands must be recognized to set up windmills. There are many places that use on-grid electricity despite compatibility with the windmills. Electricity demands of such areas or facilities should immediately be converted to wind energy. In addition to this, as AEDB initiated research and development programmes, study programmes should also be started at the university level to develop specialized engineers in this field rather government may establish engineering universalities dedicated to alternative and renewable sources of energy.