The Wind Turbines of Spain, France and Portugal.
Posted on August 25th, 2009

By Garvin Karunaratne.

Touring the three above countries in April and May 2009, many ideas came to my mind about how  we have failed  to develop Sri Lanka.  

In turning out electrical power for the national grid.  I saw clusters of about twenty five or more wind turbines near  various cities. We in Sri Lanka have  some five wind turbines at Hambantota near the sea, turning out about half a megawatt or less each because there is hardly any wind power there other than the sea breeze. I lived=2 0a year in Hambantota and there is not a grain of sea sand  on the beach untouched by my toes. I trod on the beach daily with Cooperative Commissioner Rajaguru and the OA of the Kachcheri. There was definitely more wind power near my residence at Browns Hill Matara, but the big wigs of wind power had decided to have the turbines at Hambantota.

There are afoot some plans to have wind turbines at Puttlam and though I have not worked there I have passed that way many a time. There is definitely no more wind power in Puttlam than at Hambantota.   The sharp question comes to my mind is why are we flogging a dead horse. As pointed out by me go to Madugoda, Ramboda Pass, the Forest Circuit Bungalow at Ohia, Hayes near Deniyaya and see the roofs of houses blown away. Are there any roofs blown away in Hambantota.? None.  

 Someone is trying to prove that wind power is not feasible and the oil lobby is so strong as to sabotage the feasibilit y of wind power. John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hitman  comes to my mind.  Perkins was an insider, an economist- a highly paid worker of a multinational who once wrote out “”…” rather fabricated  plans that were intended to sabotage development in Third World countries. The Plans drafted and approved  by lobbying the big wigs in power in various countries were meant not to develop our countries but to give our countries Aid in a manner that the Aid money flowed back to the donor countries with interest. The Superpowers make fanciful profits when they can sell one Thermal Power Plant to our countries and also tie us up to buy oil endless making our countries more and more indebted.  The plan of the Superpowers is  to make our countries indebted so that we will for ever dance to their tune.  

I am happy that JohnPerkins has written that book  He tells that he had given a great deal of thought to the wrong done to world development by the multinationals and decided that20he cannot carry the burden of culpability any longer and therefore decided to make the Confessions. Someday, I hope to write how we administrators in Sri Lanka have  struggled to bring about development despite the odds  created by multinationals who have crept into our country in the guise of “investment” and today command many essential services.  

Good food for thought to our leaders at the Electricity Board  

Let me be a bit bolder to make a suggestion- not aimed at creating a problem for our Government that has successfully battled a war with terrorists and now has  to contend battling with the opposition the United National Party that ruined our economy since 1977 and now talks big about development which they themselves undid and sabotaged making our country indebted.  

 It has so happened that I have since leaving my eighteen years in the Administrative Service  roamed all over the world and have seen many many wind turbines working day and night churning power for the national grids. In April 2009 I was in Amiens in France touring in my Campervan and slept under a dozen wind turbines that churned power for the French Grid. Amiens is flat land at more or less sea level. It was a low breeze like the force at Hambantota.  Then my travel took me past Bordeaux- the wine land to the North of Spain. In Spain and Portugal I came across clusters of wind turbines located on hills.  At Tarifa on coastal mountains  I saw hundreds of  wind turbines- some of them even perched up on basic “Third World” type of pylons built up with angle iron, all churning energy for the national grid. Spain is the World’s third biggest producer of wind power, after the USA and Germany. Spain in 2008 produced 40.8% of its power requirements from wind turbines and they are marching ahead to produce 20,000 Megawatts capacity by 2010.  In Spain there are over 500 companies with over 150 wind turbine production plants. Each wi nd turbine turns out 2 to 3 MW. My tour took me through the Pyrenees and I saw many wind turbines erected on mountains. Finally  near the Motorway Service Station near Abbeyville in France I spent a night under a wind turbine churning electricity for the French grid. A tour of 45 days in France, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland  was concluded and the highlight of it all was the majestic sight of wind turbines on mountains, a sight I will never forget.  

I keep wondering why we in Sri Lanka are yet lingering harnessing the sea breeze when we do have real wind power in our hills. I am truthful when I say that in my endless circuits I have had narrow shaves with death  on the Ramboda Pass and on my tours in Walapone during my years’  stint at Nuwara Eliya.  Again I grazed death many a time on the wind swept Madugoda stretch on my weekly circuit to Mahiyangana when I worked in Kandy. At times the wind comes down with a sheer force at bends on the roads and one has to be alert to the maximum to avoid being turned over or pushed into the deep ravines below.  

A question comes up in my mind- why are we kidding ourselves while other countries like the USA, Denmark, Spain, Germany and the UK have really stolen a march.  

My first paper on wind turbines appeared in the Lanka Monthly Digest  of May 2002. In introducing my paper: Candle in the Wind, the Editor wrote: Having traveled and lived in southern Sri Lanka and several hill stations where wind power is strong Dr Garvin Karunaratne is convinced that this source of alternative energy  is the key to unlock the country’s present power crisis.  

 I stand by this statement and am prepared to convince anyone  that the solution to our power problems lie in utilizing our wind power. I keep remembering a song I sang in Sinhala long ago when I was a child:
Wind, wind,
wind, You do come from all over,
You hit my body And sway my entire being.
Then I was really mesmerized with the power of the wind.  

           My Paper, The Energy Problem of Sri Lanka,  appeared in my book:How the IMF Ruined Sri lanka and Alternate Programmes of Success(Godages, 2006).   The Paper begins;  While touring California, I was stunned to see the wind farm at Altamont Pass near Livermore, California. I saw hundreds of turbines  turning out energy for the national grid. 

This paper also highlights what I saw at Hyde in North Dakota:

I visited a wind farm of 27 wind turbines at hyde County in North Dakota, run by the Bismark Regional Cooperative. There 27 wind turbines  produce 40 Megawatts sufficient power for 14,000 American hoimes. These are new generation turbines a development over the older turbines that generated power at 30 cents per kilowatthour. These wind turbines produce electricity at  less than five cents a kwh. The turbines are 330 ft tall on a foundation 28 feet deep. Computers turn the nacelle and the rotar to face the wind and the turbine shuts off automatically if the wind power exceeds 56 miles per hour.

I emphasize that the cost of kwh is less than five US cents which is equal to five to six Sri lankan cents. Today  the Sri lankan consumer is being charged around twelve cents per kwh. Is this not because the UNP Government of 2002 entered into hasty agreements with foreign firms to provide electricity at this exhorbitant cost.               

Again in my paper,  Wind Power: The Solution for South Asia’s Energy Crisis on  The Asian Tribune of 27/12/2007  I stated that wind turbines is the only solution for Asia’s Energy Crisis.  

What we require to get all the power we need is a few hundred wind turbines.  

Each wind turbine is perched on a pole that can be made of iron or pre stressed concrete. On this a turbine mechanism is mounted and three wings fixed. The only foreign exchange required is to import the turbine motors. The rest can be fabricated locally.  Then it is a pure administrative matter to get  the sites selected, construction done and the pieces assembled. This will create a great deal of employment.  

 I am not fantasizing or day dreaming. Let me narrate how we in the Agrarian Services Department tackled the problem of constructing paddy stores.  We needed paddy stores fast and the Public Works Department with all its engineers was not fast enough.  Our heads were two members of the Civil Service, M.S.Perera, a history honours graduate and J.V.Fonseka, a classics graduate. They were working as Commissioners in the Departrment of Agrarian Services.  Earlier J.V.Fonseka had worked as Director of the Land Development Department which carried a record of more construction work than the Public Works Department. The Colonization Schemes had the irrigation tanks rest ored by the Irrigation Department and the rest- the construction of roads and bridges, the houses, stores etc. had all to be done by this Department of Land Development and under the gaze and supervision of a few chief engineers the Land Development Officers became masters at their task. They were all members of the Administrative Service. None of us were engineers. We were all administrators who had done our bit in everything. The only bit of engineering I did was in minor irrigation, where we were in charge of minor irrigation maintenance and construction. I learned how to handle a dumpy level and the theodolite to do surveys and  acquired a knowledge sufficient not to get bluffed by Cultivation Superintendents. In fact on my investigations and checks two senior Cultivation Superintendents had to kiss good bye to their jobs and pensions.

 The Department  obtained the services of an administrator who had worked long in the Land Development Department. He was M.P Jayasinghe. In addition a retired chief engineer one Fernando was recruited. Plans were drafted for stores that were easily a hundred feet or more in height, two hundred feet in length and breath, tenders were called and construction work commenced. Land was identified and  we built the stores. Some were of massive size and these have st ood their day- firm on the ground even today. When I do travel in Sri Lanka I gaze at some of these stores  built by us-at Koggala, Dehigahalanda, Mihintale etc. they stand  firm even today. 

  Today we are  a country that has taught the world how to battle and annihilate a tremendous terrorist organization.  Let that manpower be unleashed on our energy problem. The USA is a country where the Army Corps of Engineers attends to difficult tasks in the development of natural resources. Let me quote from a publication by the US Army Corps of Engineers:

Rules and Regulations Governing Public Use of Corps of Engineers,   
       Water Resources, Development Projects(May 2000)
It is the policy of the Secretary of the Army, acting through the chief of engineers to manage the natural, cultural and developed resources of each project in the public interest.  

In my travels in the USA- criss crossing from coast to coast twice I have seen many construction works accomplished by the US Army Corps of Engineers. In particular I have been overly impressed by the McNary Lock & Dam on the Snake River. It was a hydro electric dam with a capacity of 980,000 kw. The river has a four dams all equipped with locks for navigation. When the USA Administration experienced difficulty in constructing roads etc at Yellowstone National Park it was the US Army Corps of Engineers that did tackle it.  

  Let me close with a wish that our victorious armed forces can also be unleashed on  development tasks that have so far defied us. One such task would be to erect a hundred wind turbines at Ritigala and a few hundr ed in Hayes at Deniyaya- Rakwana, and at Ohiya and we will kiss good bye to  the power cuts for good. 

  Garvin Karunaratne, formerly of the Sri Lanka Administrative ServiceAugust 25, 2009

2 Responses to “The Wind Turbines of Spain, France and Portugal.”

  1. Kanaga Says:

    Being the Person under whom the Hambantota Wind Power project was undertaken, wish to comment the following.
    This plant has already paid up the cost of project by the generation of power over this time.
    The plant factor has been close to 10% only. That means it was in operation at its full load capacity for only 10% of the time. It could have been running for more time but at part load. It is equivalent to running at full load for this period of time.
    The cost of World Bank project included many training to our staff in foreign countries and visit cost of Consultants and others from various countries who came on training to this site. This was a test pilot project. Such a project can now be constructed at very much lower cost to the country.
    The feed into the grid is at a far end of a long 33KV system and this line from Embilipitya used to trip very often and every time the line trips the Wind Turbines had to be stopped. This coasted more money for maintenance as we had to frequently replace the brakes used to stop the turbines.
    The sites with better wind regime were too close to the Bird sanctuary and another site was close to the local army airport is the reason for low Plant factor at this site.
    But we reliably understand that this plant is going to be dismantled for the expansion project of the Hambantota Harbor.
    All sites in hilly mountainous areas are not allowed for wind projects due to objection from the environmentalist. Even though the Wind Power projects are GREEN in nature the rules of GOSL Environmental Ministry will not allow large wind projects in the said areas of this article. This position has to be corrected
    Please give publicity to these facts and Keep the Author informed of these so that he can take these matters with GOSL.
    The Best WIND regime for Sri Lanka are in Mannar and Jaffna areas and we hope that with these areas liberated from the insurgents it is time to go for more projects in these areas as being done in Puttalam area by the Private sector. Please down Load the wind map for Sri Lanka hear
    We can plan for sites in the sea as done in many places now where there will be more wind but the project will be more costly both to construct and maintain
    It is left to the Private sector to put up such new projects in areas with good wind regime. CEB will oppose large quantity of wind power in the system as they have to keep that amount of Power capacity as spinning reserve as the wind could stop any time. This is an expensive affair for CEB. It may be only safe to have less than 10% of the Load fed at any time in the system to avoid stability problem of the Grid. SMART GRID technology when becomes available higher percentage of Large WIND and SOLAR Power can be added to the system as these energies are intermittent. The Gris should have energy storage facility which is lacking in CEB system now. The Hydro system can be used as spinning reserve but those plant will waste too much of water when running at low load. The quick reacting Gas turbines can be used as spinning reserves but they consume costly diesel fuel and have to be operated at low efficiency in low load conditions which is very very expensive to the country.
    He can contact me at if he needs further clarification I am retired and now live in Calgary CANADA where we have 2000MW of wind power and all the (LRT) Light Rail Train system is operated with this green energy. Any consumer has the option to purchase the green Energy at an extra cost of $0.02/kWh where the normal cost of electricity is only about $0.09/kWh and the consumer get many more benefits than the feeling that he is not contributing to the Global warming

  2. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    It is time to stop picking leftover from the west. Being subjugated for a while, we have many who are not just physically servile, but even mentally to the colonial way of copycat thinking. Instead of trying to follow your masters to the bitter end, it is time to come up with new technology that no body knows. We forget that the suicidal technology we use today as idiots were a cancerous adaptation of ancient Sinhala knowledge with a twist of confusion and gambling. If you cannot, please keep quiet as there are others who may have done it already. Wind is not something green, but an indication of impending disaster in a tropical format, which needs urgent remedies. If you got time, you should think of using power of lightening as a challenge.

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