Wind Power to our Rescue
Posted on December 8th, 2020

By Garvin Karunaratne, former G.A. Matara 

Our Minister for Power is over the moon with the opening of the Mannar 100MW Wind Farm today(8/12/20) by no less a person than our Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.  

This Wind Farm as well as the Puttlam Wind Power  Plant which a is already open prove to the hilt that Sri Lanka can find all its energy requirements through wind power within two to three years at most.  

Once long ago I stayed a night at the Ohio Forest Department Circuit bungalow. I was scared that my car will be blown off. The winds were that strong. Having worked in Hambantota where there is hardly any wind power,  where our experts sited the first wind turbines, perhaps with the idea of proving that wind power is not feasible and also having worked in Nuwara Eliya where one has to be extremely careful not to be blown off by the wind, I have been  convinced that all our power requirements can be found from the wind, which abounds in our country. 

Once touring the hills of California in my son’s Nissan Z 200, I saw the thousands of wind turbines at Altamont Pass. I stopped and gazed at the turbines for an easy fifteen minutes  wondering what my eyes really did see. I could hardly imagine what I saw. This made me research further.   

My interest made me write papers proving that wind power is feasible and thanks to the editors of LMD, the Island and Lankaweb the papers saw the light of day. Finally my interest ended with a book: Wind Power for Sri Lanka’s Energy Requirements,  published in 2019 by Godages. As usual I submitted  copies to both our new Hon President and our Prime Minister- the books must be somewhere unread and unknown. Recently I sent a copy to our Minister Mr Dulles Alahapperuma and I hope he will have a read of it at least now that the Wind Turbines at Mannar and Puttlam have caused him to open his eyes.  

It so happened that one of my papers in The Island somehow reached Mr Kanaga, the foreign engineer who set  up the wind turbines at Hambantota who replied stating that the problem with Sri Lanka is that we are not siting the wind turbines in the hilly country where there is plenty of wind and we site them only on the coast where there is only a sea breeze.  

I enclose sections of the Conclusion of my book on wind power where I have invoked our leaders to decide to set up wind turbines in our hilly country. 

Let me end my paper making a definite statement that Sri Lanka can easily be self sufficient in all the power we need-some 2700 MW within two to three years at most and it will be a feather in the cap of President Gotabhaya and Prime Minister Mahinda. This requires very little foreign exchange as the towers and blades can be locally made-I have seen these been made by locals in Spain. It is only the motor that needs to be imported till a ‘Jinasena’ can make that too  in our country.  

The entirety of the GalOya Project was accomplished within five years and building a few hundred wind turbines will be an easier task. I speak as an experienced administrator and many of us  have worked in  charge of successful development programmes. I designed and established the Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh in 1982, a programme that has withstood the sands of time by creating three million self employed youths. This is to tell my readers that what I write is not fiction. It is fact and if called upon, I will prove every statement of mine. Anyone is invited to visit the nooks and corners of Bangladesh to see the largest forced of ‘economists’ in action- the youth workers who were trained by me in economic concepts and methods of extension. I enclose the Conclusion of my book on wind power with the firm hope that this paper will reach our leaders. 

By using the power of the wind offered free to us by Mother Nature, 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. 

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. 

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 thgan 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.  

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.” 

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. In every district- and I have worked in many and have traveled all over- there are many rugged hillocks which are inhabitable and will never be used except to put up some pylons and structures like wind turbines. 

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.  

Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D. Michigan State University, Former G.A.Matara. 

Author of How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka and Alternative Programmes of Success, Godages, 2006 

How the IMF saboitaged Third World Development, Godages/Kindle, 2017 

Papers on the Economic Development of Sri Lanka, Godages,2012 

08 12 2020

One Response to “Wind Power to our Rescue”

  1. aloy Says:

    From the above write up it is abundantly clear that we have enough wind power for the future as well. Hoever the problem is the cost. They say that the 100 MW plant facilty cost is 140 odd millions of dollars. How dies it compare with that of India which has similar metrics?.
    And why not start manufacture if the structures now itself?.

    If we have the mentality of fellows in hospitaks who cannot even place a PCR testing machine on a level platform what to tslk of these technologies?. But if our Colombo Dockyard PLC is capable of building sophisticated ships for marine cable laying then what’s the problem of starting this industry in a big way?. Perhaps the Prez can appoint a capable minister to be incharge of power.

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