Wind and Solar Power for Sri Lanka
Posted on September 2nd, 2009

By Garvin Karunaratne Ph.D.(Michigan State University)

I am happy that my paper: “The Wind Turbines of Spain, France and Portugal” (Lanka Web, 25/8/2009has evoked a response from  Noor Nizam, of Canada, in his paper, “Wind Energy Electricity Generation is a reality in Sri Lanka” Lanka Web, 26/8/2009)  

The thrust of my paper, based on my observation of wind turbines I have seen at work in Spain and Portugal is that these two countries have been building wind turbines on mountains, while we in Sri lanka have been building our wind turbines on the coast. It is only commonsense that on the coast be it in Hambantota or in Puttalam  the turbine blades can only be turned by the available sea breeze. I am aware that on rare occasions  the wind on the coast can be raging, but that is limited to cyclonic conditions and very rare. Comparatively in our hilly country at Ramboda, at Hayes, at Madugoda, ay Ohiya, the wind is raging at high speeds at almost all times and it is my opinion that this is where our wind turbines should be sited.  

 I am aware that our current plans are to have turbines at Puttalam and Kalpitiya. The wind turbines erected at these sites will also  produce electricity but that quantum will depend on the wind energy, which will always be at a minimum. In the USA the wind turbines at many places are located in the hills at vantage positions where the wind is forced through natural mountains to go through a small space- what we call a gap. This was also true of many places where I saw wind turbines in Spain and Portugal.  

 In my book, How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka, and Alternative Programmes of Success(Godages, 2006)I have included my paper, “The Energy Problem of Sri Lanka: Can Wind Power Help?”, I have quoted from studies done on the wind power available on the coastal belts in Sri lanka.  To quote from my paper:  

According  to the CEB Study, ” Study of Wind Power in the South Eastern Coastal Belt,” “The Study revealed  that the total potential of wind power generation in the South Eastern part  of the country to be 200MW. This excludes the land area  for wild life reserves and agriculture” The coastal belt winds are created in convection currents  and the velocity is nowhere  near the power available  in the hilly areas. The w ind power at Hambantota is established  at 5 m.p.h..”¦”¦. I can state that if the wind power  in the South Eastern Coastal Belt can be estimated  at 200 MW, the wind power in the Deniyaya- Hayes area,  the Central Hills  and the Knuckles area  can be easily twenty times that amount i.e. 4000 MW which is far above our requirements. “¦ Wind velocity of 11 to 14 m.p.h. is classified as good, while wind velocity of over 14 m.p.h.  is classified as excellent. I am certain that sites with wind velocity of over 14 m.p.h.  can easily be found         in the Sinharaja ridges, Madugoda on the Kandy-Mahiyangana Road at Ohiya and Haputale.  

The question at issue is why are we going in only for areas like Hambantota, Kalpitiya and Puttlam where the wind velocity is only 5 m.p.h. and behaving as if Sri Lanka does not have a hill country where we can easily bag high velocity. Spain, the country that is the third wind power country in the world,  concentrates wind turbines in its hill areas and not on its coast. 

  Even the Canadian Wind power project of 134 MW to be located in the North Eastern Province will suffer the same fate that the wind power plants at Hambantota suffer and finally enable the authorities to prove that wind power plants are not good enough for Sri Lanka. The Canadian effort will be more successful if the wind turbines are located in the hill country.  Sri Lankan development effort has been hijacked often by authorities who hold ulterior motives.  

  Another important observation I have made on my tour is the use of solar power in  Spain.  Spain is the fourth country in the world in utilizing solar en ergy. Spain produces 120 MW.  To see a stray solar panel on a roof is  a common site in many countries, but solar panels on acres and acres at times as much as ten acres or more is what I have seen in my tour.  Sri Lanka especially the Dry Zone is ideal area for solar power. However I have not had the occasion to look into the pricing of solar panels to ensure that solar power is what we can afford.  

On the contrary, wind power we can easily afford.  It is only the motor element that we cannot make. The rest “”…” the blades, the main shaft etc can all be made locally and employment can easily be found for hundreds. Touring Spain and Portugal we found blades of wind turbines being transported. This will also save our foreign exchange. 

  It is hoped that these comments will reach the authorities in the higher echelons of power production in Sri Lanka.

8 Responses to “Wind and Solar Power for Sri Lanka”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    It is with great interest that I read Mr. Garwin Karunaratne’s article about Wind and Solar Power. I have been bugging a childhood friend of mine for a long time, now a Chairman of a leading Tea Company, to seriously consider entering the Solar Power Industry. The concept of Solar and Wind Power for Sri Lanka should be accepted without hesitation. It is an unseen source of never ending, tremendous energy.which can be harnessed at little or less expense. There was a time I travelled to Mahiyangana through Madugoda, Hunasgiriya very often. When I go through the Hunasgiriya Gap, my VW rocks like a boat, for the very strong wind. Just past the Gap, I stop at the wayside boutique for a hot cup of tea. Many a time I have seen cyclists fall off their bike, for the force of the wind, and it provides laughter to those enjoying their tea. The Hunasgiriya Gap enviroment, would be an ideal site to locate a wind turbine.I do hope that someone would consider this site for the initial project.

    I have travelled the North, East and North Central too very regularly, and the conditions are ideal for Solar Power Projects. It is my contention that Solar Panels should be installed on the roofs of say School Buildings, or other buildings, to supplement the use of Power from the Grid. The Lamp Posts individually, could be Solar Powered.

    I have seen at the Home Depot in USA, units which can be mounted onto Posts, which gives 3KW of electricity. Manufacturing that type of unit would be ideal, to service houses etc. The potential is unlimited. Solar and Wind Power are Gold Mines. There is plenty of scrap steel available with the Railway, and the CTB. Over to you, enterprising Engineers !

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Sorry ! I do not think that Mr. Garvin Karunaratne’s patriotic suggestions, were meant to be a base for abuse of Governments and individuals. With a predjudicial mind there is a moronic tendency to go at a tangent and express incoherent BS.

  3. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    My comment at 6.48 am was in response to somebody elses irresponsible commments. I see that it has been filed in its appropriate bin…the dust bin.

  4. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    Dear SW, as a person with 20 years of migrant life, I can understand very well what migrants can and cannot do. Their proposals are mere BS borrowed from hosts. Without understanding local sensitivities, culture and long term well being, suggesting what you see somewhere else as good for adoption is never a patriotic act. What ever your background, migrants are always a threat to the country of birth when they bend backward and try to offer assistance. Obviously, I do not wish to be someone carrying home diseases contracted from foreign soils. For those who value foreign themes, I suggest to think local and forget the past. Just because you or your editors do not understand what I said, it does not make any difference to me because I have met a lot of such people in my career. I am someone who believes in local values and have made great effort to protect Sinhala interests. Sadly, there are many who claim to be patriots contributing to the continuation of destruction. I hope editors would leave this comment for you to read. By the way, if you know about people like me, you would not make such a stupid comment. In time to come, we will do what is required to full fill the Sinhala dream of living longer. By the way, anyone who wishes to become a qualified professional in any of the industrial engineering disciplines anywhere in the world, that person may have to misunderstand another of my so-called incoherent minor research works (This work produces hundreds of doctors – PhDs and experts annually – apparently they do not need to understand to work on this subject). Rather than limiting ourselves to little pothole thinking, we should endeavour to think as normal people to do something worthy for those who brought us life. If anyone supports the bloody traitors contributing to the continuation of the English- built government in Lanka, you are never a patriot. No body needs a big brain to understand this simple fact. We need real intellectuals, not photocopiers to stop the carnage. I wish the editors re-paste my original comment.

  5. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    With great deference, the subject is Wind and Solar power for Sri Lanka. Not who you are, and your ego, and your diarrheal BS of 20 years migrant life. Who cares.

  6. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    I thank editors for allowing my comment and appreciate Wijesinge’s response. Any way, I cannot help your very shallow thinking on the subject. For Lanka, the subject that is relevant is sustainable supply of Energy, not necessarily Wind and Solar Energy that you try to suggest as THE solution. If you try to replace the energy derived from petroleum products, you need to turn the whole country into a wind/solar farm. This is why I decided to make my comment. Lanka became very close to bankruptcy during the recent petroleum price hike, which is going to be repeated in the near future. Who you are and your ego is as important as what you are trying to do in Lanka because you are not talking of a country made of a single person like you. If you think I got Sinhala type ego, I am very much pleased because it is something very hard to gain. I do fully agree with you about the diarrheal BS of 20 years migrant life (include yours too). I see migrants, especially those who steal Sinhala knowledge and sell it to their enemies for a pittance, as vermin and a pathetic pestilence that needed to be eradicated to protect Sinhala people. Obviously, I am never proud of being a migrant and hope I could erase that time from my memory. Look at you. You wanted to send a comment associated with the future energy supply technology (something very close to a virtual source of energy) to the dustbin and took up the straw type pursued by the others about to be drowned. Since you talk of my ego, I like to tell that only a few of us can offer that technology no matter how hard you try. Unfortunately our politicians have a bigger ego, but not as big as yours. They are trying to do whatever we suggest without having any second thoughts, but using their servile lot and family members. If you think you can match Sinhala ego (Only true Sinhalese can match it), you can do a much better service to Lanka. As a matter of fact every bit of generic knowledge that contributed to the modern society comes from the ancient Sinhala civilisation (the first modern civilisation outside the jungles).

    I have read some articles written by Garvin on economic management. Why not he and you, if good enough, try to counter the recent investment move made by a few infamous investors among your countrymen (I mean your new adopted country). One of them was instrumental in the last Asian Financial Crisis that reset the value of Asian tiger economies. Instead of talking of things that you can do very little to help such as future energy needs of Lanka, this is an area where you could serve Lanka better. As you have the access to the local economy made of the best of the pyramid schemers, you should try to create a hedge fund to salvage the Lankan economy, when this greedy schemers pull out the capital at the most chaotic financial times, which will bring down everything that you value. I know how hard it is to escape from the migrant attitude resulted from long-term hypnosis introduced through education, social, political and cultural mechanisms. I hope you will have what it takes to come out of your miserable migrant life and regain your life in Lanka.

  7. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    I find it difficult to enlighten an imbecile. Hope the editors will understand that and I close my comments. Talking very disparagingly of an educated Civil Servant, who is also a Phd is blasphemy and I cannot condone it.

  8. Priyantha Abeywickrama Says:

    Dear editors, I cannot afford to spend my time like this, but need to send this final comment to clarify my intentions. My aim is not to disparage any body. But as a misguided person akin to my past, I commensurate with SW and have no hard feelings about low-level contribution towards my comments. As a member of Sinhala speaking Diaspora, I can understand his false belief in western educational system, where I always have had a more attractive audience to my comments. I once called all the previous approaches in a particular subject was chancy in a major field – means like gambling. Unfortunately it was accepted as part of my research document. When we seek to cover ourselves under various qualifications and positions to convey an idea, it does not necessarily mean it is right. As the ex-GA of Matara, my home district, the article writer attaches himself to the shoes of English imperialists who occupied that position, taking the burden of damage caused to Sinhala people in Matara district. Having a single PhD in western education does not make us gods of knowledge. Neither it legitimises whatever we utter as PhD level stuff. Those confused with eastern respect for educated, with those having western qualification like SW, should understand that a PhD is just a small spike of specialisation based on their established knowledge base related to a subject. How narrow is this aspect of expertise is clearly evident if someone pokes into the abstract of the corresponding Thesis, which may not even be a matter of discussion at all, as part of a subject in an undergraduate degree course. I am writing this clarification because there is a real problem of academics working in Lankan politics poking into other areas under the misguided respect of politicians in Lanka driven by local values. As someone who contributed to the greater attention received by the Sri Lankan Diaspora from the current leadership in Lanka, I cannot keep quiet when someone pleads with these desperate politicians to implement their suggestions, as these desperate politicians with some interests in doing some thing good for the country would do anything to survive. They have already placed so much trust in Diaspora because of people like me. Making a point is never blasphemy (a Christian idea). Enlightening an imbecile (A Hindu Buddhist idea) like me will be very hard. I will listen only to someone who got hundreds of PhDs after their name, or others who simply play dumb like me. There are people like Nalin De Silva (a professor) who has come out of these self-deceiving intellectual values, though I do not condone his views per se. Those interested should go to (in Sinhala) to find out how he describes himself. Having come through the western education system, I know very well that it is good for westies that are still living in barbeque age. But for Sinhalese, it means nothing compared to what they have already accumulated as knowledge. Being a beneficiary of such knowledge, I have no hesitation to stand up for them. If there are people who find themselves in my situation, I like to see them joining me to share the Sinhala knowledge to be real experts in all fields that matter for living longer. Garvin is a more capable expatriate who can do more by using his specialist knowledge in area of his PhD (I believe it is in western style economics – the final phase of the misused ancient Sinhala economic system). For those interested, it may be interesting to know how Tamil Diaspora got a sympathetic hearing from your leaders (I mean in your adopted country) as intellectuals. Is it because they delivered some stolen highly valued knowledge from Sinhala people related to defence? Pl try to find the answer. You will be amazed and laugh at what Tamils have done.

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