Wind Power to our rescue
Posted on February 3rd, 2020

By Garvin Karunaratne

I bequeath to my readers the Conclusion of my book: Wind Power for Sri Lanka’s Power Requirements.

It in unfortunate that our authorities in establishing wind turbines in Sri Lanka have so far ignored  the mountainous areas where there is ample wind power. 

My mind travels to a book by John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, where he confesses that as an expert he had written feasibility reports with fabricated statistics which when implemented by  the Government of Ecuador, became failures,  with  the loan as a debt to the country. Our country has been given the wrong advice. Go to Spain, to the USA the leading countries where wind power has been harnessed and they harness the wind on their mountains. It is only Sri Lanka that tries to catch the sea breeze.

In Sri Lanka we have failed to harness Wind Power which Mother Nature has bountifully provided to us.

Suffice it to state that Spain a country that was far behind in producing wind power has within two to three years spurted up the ladder to be the second country in the world. Travelling through the Pyrenees to Spain in my Motorhome I was surprised to see wind turbines perched all over even on makeshift angle iron posts, the type of things that I can myself make in a day(I am no engineer). Spain even sells power to France today.

On my last visit to venerate the Avukana Buddha, I spotted a canopy perched on very long concrete shafts constructed by the State Engineering Corporation. 

It is my humble request to our excellency the President of Sri Lanka to summon the engineers who built the concrete shafts to support the canopy, and request them to design and produce the posts that can carry the wind turbines. They can easily produce these. Then import the wind turbine mechanism and set them up in our hills. We will provide employment for a few thousands. We can invite a specialist of the caliber of  Paul Gipe, the mastermind of wind power in California. who actually constructed and guides the wind turbines in California today. This will provide all the power we need. I have no doubt about that. This task can be accomplished within a year at most. Considering the billions we spend to import coal and oil, we can easily make a saving.

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

I enclose the Conclusion of my book in support for kind perusal.

10.Conclusion

I am pleased to submit the Papers I have so far written on Wind Power as a source of Energy, in a booklet in the sheer hope that someday this will be read by one of our leaders who will be convinced that Wind Power is the form of energy that Sri Lanka is blessed with in abundance and will get going all out.

In nostalgia, I can remember what did actually happen in Bangladesh in 1982, when I worked there as the Commonwealth Fund General Advisor on Youth Development to the Ministry of Labour and Manpower in Bangladesh., The Minister for Youth Abul Kasim  was arrested on the charge of harbouring a criminal in his residency. A day later, the Military took over the country in a coup de etat.  Immediately afterwards, the Military Government  in a high powered conference chaired by Hon Aminul Islam, the Minister for Labour and Manpower assessed the programmes of the Youth Ministry. That included imparting vocational training to 40,000 youths a year. The Minister  was not totally impressed with the work done. Suddenly realizing me as the only outsider, I was confronted:

”What is the contribution you can make for Bangladesh?”

 I replied: It would be ideal to have a self employment programme to enable the 40,000 youths that are being trained every year to be guided to become entrepreneurs. Most of them are in the ranks of the unemployed even after training, today. ”

 My reply created an uproar. The Secretary to the Treasury, the highest official in the land objected on the grounds that such a self employment creation programme can never be achieved. He added that the ILO had in the preceeding three years tried to establish a self employment programme in Tangail, Bangladesh and spent a massive amount of funds all in vain. I  argued with the Secretary to the Treasury for over two hours, quoting definite instances where I had successfully established self employment projects for youths in Sri lanka.  It was an intense battle between me and the Secretary with the Hon Minister intently listening.  Finally the Minister stopped our battle. He immediately approved my establishing a self employment pogramme.  The Secretary to the Treasury stumped with the words, that he will never be providing any funds for this wasteful task. I replied that I will find savings within approved training budgets which was approved by the Hon Minister.

I got cracking with the officials of the Youth Ministry and the Lecturers of the Vocational Training Institutes that provided the vocational training, providing them with a basic knowledge of national planning to identify  areas within the economy where there was a propensity to create employment opportunities and training them in economic endeavour-structuring projects for self employment on a small scale-even with a cow or a dozen chicks and developing the enterprise. My task was to establish the self employment programme and to train the staff to continue after my two year consultancy ended. To a man the officers responded and today this Youth Self Employment Programme has by February 2011 guided  over two millions to become self employed  and it is an ongoing  programme that trains and guides 160,00 youths a year to become self employed. Today, it is easily the premier programme of employment creation  the world has known.

This experience of mine itself indicates that though wind power for the task of creating power is at an infancy today, we can easily develop it.

Let me hope that the contents of these papers which prove beyond all doubt that Wind Power can offer all the energy that Sri Lanka needs will someday find a Minister Aminul Islam” who will authorize it. I am certain  that the administrators and engineers who will toil till it is a success can easily be found.

Firstly, the country will not depend on the supply of coal and oil for power plants and the country can save all the millions and billions  being spent today to import oil and coal.

Secondly it will provide employment for thousands in erecting the turbine towers, in establishing the wind turbines and in the manufacture of the turbine mechanism itself at the later stages. In my travels in France, Spain and Portugal I have seen workers making  the towers, blades, transporting them in long trucks, erecting the towers and maintaining them. That is no difficult task for our engineers and workers.

 One of my readers happened to be an engineer, Mr Kanaga. who was involved with establishing the five wind turbines at Hambantota, the first to be built in Sri lanka. What is most interesting in his comment which I have totally enclosed in this book, is that the  environmental lobby had decided that the turbines should only be erected on the coasts and not in the mountains where there is ample wind force.

It is sad that the environmentalists were silent when the entire Kotmale Valley was denuded of people and their activities all to create 200 MW of power. That could have been easily achieved with fifty wind turbines scattered within Kotmale itself and the inhabitants and the economy would have been spared extintion. The entirety of Kotmale is dead today.

Currently the Kitulgala Valley is being destroyed to build a dam to get some 38MW of power and the entire Kitulgala Valley for miles will face destruction. Why were the environmentalists silent when these two projects were approved and implemented? 

Kanaga, that engineer supports my recommendation that  we should use the wind in our mountain area to provide the energy we need.

To my mind it is a crime not to use the wind power available and to spend millions and billions to purchase oil and coal.

I am convinced that there is an Oil Lobby and a Coal Lobby well financed to prove that wind is not a dependable source.

Many opine that wind is undependable.  To them my answer is that the wind is an utterly dependable source of energy. Spain has gone all out to build wind turbines and even sells power to France.

Thanks are due to engineer Kanaga for his comments which are immensely valuable so that I have quoted them as an attachment to my paper.

A reader of my Papers, Susantha Wijeytileke has even commented that once at Madugoda he saw a cyclist being blown off the road by the power of the wind.

I must mention that I am not alone in advocating the siting of wind turbines in the mountainous areas of Sri Lanka.

In Windfair, on line  editorial journalist  Trevor Sievert  quotes Lakshman Guruswamy, Sri Lanka has the potential to generate 24,000 MW electricity from wind.” (http://w3.windfair.net/wind-energy/news/1q543-sri-lanka-high-wind-energy-potential) Professor Guruswamy further states that studies have shown that nearly 5000 square KM of windy areas are available for potential wind power generation in Sri  Lanka.” (Dated 12/04/2018.)

In  www.windpower.lk, it is stated that in wind power the potential for Sri Lanka  is 20,740MW”

Wind Power in Sri Lanka,a publication by The Asia Business Office (//www.asiabiomass.jp/English/topics/1601_04.html) states that the wind potential in Sri Lanka is 20,740 MW. In  its words there is strong potential for wind power in the North Western coastal regions of Northern Province, the highland areas of the Central Province, Sabaragamuwa and Uva.”

  In Sri Lanka Wind farm Analysis and Site Selection Assitance,  M. Young and R Vilhauer of The Global Energy Concept, Kirkland, Washington state:

Sri Lanka has considerable available land with wind resource potential sufficient for development. However, the  wind power capacity expansion is limited by the electricity transmission infrastructure. CEB estimates that the grid cannot accommodate additional wind capacity more than 7% of the peak load. The CEB estimates that  installing more than 20MW of wind capacity in any given region may adversely impact local grid instability and power quality.

This Study  states that the windy land   can provide 50,000 MW.”

It is important to note that it is not the lack of wind power that holds up the utilization of wind power to produce electricity. Instead it is the grid capacity. Tackling the grid capacity is another kettle of fish. This is an area that has to be addressed. I will not be surprised if our  experts who yet think that wind turbines should be built to harness the sea breeze and not the wind power in our mountains  will come up with another cock and bull story stating that a grid cannot be built.

In the construction of the wind turbines at the Senok Wind Farm in Puttlam, where four wind farms established have a capacity of 40MW, it was found that the existing port facilities in the main port of Colombo and the road network was found wanting for the import of the turbine towers and blades. Instead these had to be obtained through barges from India.  The maximum height of the turbine tower is 90 meters and each blade is 50 meters in length. I have seen long towers and blades being transported by road in France and Spain. This needs special transport. In the hilly areas in Sri lanka it will be more feasible to construct the towers and blades on site. These are areas that have to be addressed in any development. Where there is a will, there is also a way.

My thanks are also due to the Editor of the Sunday Observer.lk who in Let there be Light” (Sunday Observer:06/09/2009) commented that my suggestions are very valuable. Referring tro my suggestion that the wind power in the Central Highlands should be harnessed says, This is a timely and valid proposal and the authorities should take  appropriate action to locate wind turbines in  areas which will enable them to reach their maximum potential.”

I am also thankful for Noor Nizam for his Wind Energy Electricity generation is a reality” (Sri Lanka Guardian:27/08/2009)  In his words, Garvin should be commended for his boldness to take to task the lethargic and selfish bureaucrats on this issue of renewal energy development of electricity energy in Sri Lanka…. His message should be well taken  by others too handling  national planning and development strategies  to assist the little island of 21 million to come out of the rut of poverty, misery, the destruction of the civil war and the dependence on foreign powers.”  He adds in the affirmative, As Garvin Karunaratne  wishes Wind Energy Electricity Generation  will be a reality in Sri Lanka for the next generation”.  It is my fervent hope that this will be realized.

The last paper  states of how the new owner of the Hambantota Port has insisted on a massive payment as ground rent for the five wind turbines. The CEB has decided to dismantle the five wind turbines.  This is a sad epitaph for wind power use in Sri Lanka.

However the contents of this book convinces any sane thinking person that wind power can be harnessed. We have to learn from mistakes, not make the mistakes rule us. As a country we have to find ways and means of forging ahead,  heedless.

This study proves  beyond all doubt that there is ample wind capacity in Sri Lanka for self sufficiency in our power requirements through harnessing the wind.. There is no question about this. However, as in any field of development, be it agriculture or industry, there are problems that have to be surmounted.  As stated the national grid has to be developed to carry the power from areas where it is generated to the areas where the power is consumed. Perhaps there can be local grids to carry the power generated from  a local wind farm to a local district capital. For instance if wind farms are located in Dela on the Kirigalpotta hillock, a grid can carry the power to the town of Ratnapura.

Sri Lankan engineers have in ancient times done wonders. The gradient of the Jaya Ganga that carried the waters of the Kala Weva to the tanks in Talawa and Anuradhapura has been constructed at a gradient of six inches in a mile, a gradient that baffles the irrigation engineers of today.

I am dead certain that Sri Lanka can become self sufficient in all its power requirements not for its present stage but also for its future development through using wind power. The wind power in the Central and Sabaragamuwa Hills is vast. Methods and systems have to be found to harness this energy. However as long as we build wind turbines on the coastal areas and ignore the areas where there is real wind power and satisfy ourselves with studies of the difficulties and constraints,  our attempt will be like  that of a squirrel trying to empty the water in the ocean , carrying a bit of water on its tail,  endless.

THE  END

Garvin Karunaratne Ph.D. Michigan State University

Author of How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka & Alternative Programmes of Success(Godages:2006), How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development(Kindle/Godages:2017)

04/02/2020

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