The Power Game: Small Hydro and Wind Power to our rescue.
Posted on February 1st, 2020

By Garvin Karunaratne

While renewable energy should be the aim in power generation, it has so happened that we are currently walking in the opposite direction. We are ignoring the resources that Mother Nature has provided for us.

The news item: Small Hydro Power Developers Association calls on the President for protection”(FT:29/1/20)  tells me of the negative orientation that authorities have had towards generating power from renewable sources in recent years.

My interest in small hydro power plants comes from what I have seen walking through many small scale hydro power projects on my incessant irrigation inspections in the Districts of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. It is actually a small masonry structure diverting water to turn a small generator.  In a few hundred feet the water having produced electricity  gets back to the main stream. Not a drop is lost. Mother Nature has provided this resource for us and it is sad that we do not realize it.

An uncle of mine owned such a hydropower plant on the road from Gampola to Ramboda and I have had the occasion to walk every inch of it. It provided power to run his tea factory and bungalow. Unfortunately the Electricity Board talked him to abandon it and obtain power from them. He discussed this with me once and I requested him instead to further develop the hydro power plant. The Electricity Board won the day and later my uncle regretted when the Electricity Board jacked up their prices. Earlier he was getting power totally free of charge.

My uncle is no more and that section of the hydro plant is somehow in foreign custody now and for the past many years it is being developed to provide more power and eventually to sell the power to our grid and make a fat profit which will get shunted in dollars from our foreign reserves to Germany. Sad to say it is a system where our water is turned into dollars and fritted away from our foreign exchange reserves.

I am told that in the Yahapalana Government days no approvals were granted for small hydro power projects. I hope the details I have given above will prove to anyone that we have gone in the wrong direction. It is up to us to get on the correct path to find the power that Mother Nature has provided for us totally free.

Once I recently I went through the  Kotmale dam and my mind went through the damage that has been done to the Kotmale Valley, a valley full of some one lakh  people, well developed homegardens, in production of paddy, kitul treacle, pepper, cardamoms and endless fruit because it was a developed area. Now it is all denuded to all to provide 201Megawatts of power.

In my book:Wind Power for Sri Lanka’s Energy Requirements(Godages:2019)  I have shown how the 201MW now turned out by the Kotmale dam could have been produced by around 50 wind turbines. Today there are wind turbines that turn 5 MW Power. When the Kotmale Dam was built there were wind turbines that produced 3 MW power. If only some seventy wind turbines had been sited in the Estates in the Kotmale Valley itself, the people in Kotmale Valley would have been saved.

It is unfortunate that we have totally ignored the power sources that Mother Nature has provided for us.

 A part of the problem is that Sri Lanka gave up National Planning in 1977. We do not have a Planning Commission that comprises patriotic thinking professionals to guide our development.

A case in point is what is happening today in the Kitulgala Valley where  a dam is being built across the Kitulgala River(later Kelani River) to produce 35 MW of power. The water is taken in an underground tunnel and depriving water to   13 of the 18 rapids which is today a Tourist attraction.  Untold damage is done to a three mile section where a tunnel is being constructed. Homes and land are being damaged. This 35MW of power can easily be produced by less than ten wind turbines at a fraction of the cost of $ 85 million that is being spent all obtained on a foreign loan.

Small Scale Hydro Power deserves immediate thinking and I urge  anyone in authority to read my book: Wind Power for Sri Lanka’s Energy Requirements. 

This paper commenced with Hydro Power and ends with Wind Power. Both Water and Wind are resources that Mother Nature has provided and it  upto us to harness them.

Let me conclude with stating that small scale hydro power plants and wind turbines can easily be constructed within  a year or two to provide all the power we require. We will see the DS Senanayake Development days in action at Gal Oya in the Fifties and the Land Development and Irrigation Department scenario in the Forties and Fifties in action once again. We can save the millions we spend today on importing oil and coal.

That is the message in my book: Wind Power for Sri Lanka’s Energy Requirements.

May I request our new Government  of President Gotabhaya and Prime Minister Mahinda to kindly consider my suggestions.  I am certain of their ability to do better.

Garvin Karunaratne, former GA Matara,

29/01.2020

2 Responses to “The Power Game: Small Hydro and Wind Power to our rescue.”

  1. aloy Says:

    Agree 100% with Dr. Garvin. I remember visiting a tea factory in mid 50s. Power for all operations of the mill had been generated by a turbine powered by water from a near by stream. These are the ways colonials generated income from natural resources and took away the profits to built their empires. Today a bunch of self centered politicos have taken over the power and they not only destroyed the system of governance they left but are nibbling away the edifice called Sinhale.

    This land is worth much more than these minions can imagine. They are being given peanuts to do this and that like purchasing aircrafts through various deals and are now caught in europeon rivalries while our currency is being devalued at a rate. The same thing seemed to have happened at the time Hitler came to power. One of his young soldier told me when he came to work at a project in SL where I was also working. It seems the Germans used to carry money in wheel barrows from banks. And their leader ended all that by ending the ‘democracy’. Perhaps the remedy for us is similar under the circumstances, instead of sending emissaries to ME with a begging bowl.

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Dear Garvin, I have been following your persistence and insistence for Wind and Solar power for a long long time. Scum bag Politicians who should really act are ignorant of the positive impact on peoples lives, that would bring electricity to all those who don’t have it. I have seen people falling off their cycles by wind power at the Hunasgiriya gap. My VW used to go like a boat moving left and right. So much are the possibilities of harnessing Wind and Solar Power. If you are in Srilanka, you should see the President Gotabaya personally, and put forward your proposals. HE IS A GOOD LISTENER. HE WILL ACT WITHOUT HESITATION. BUDDHU SARANAI, FOR YOUR SUCCESS. susantha.

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