Wind is at our back

Today, the Renewable Energy is rapidly growing energy resource the world over. Having reached global installed renewable energy capacity at 2,378 gigawatt (GW), including on-shore and off-shore installations, it accounts for one-third of total power generation from all energy resources including fossil fuels and nuclear. The renewable energy resources include hydropower, windpower, solar energy, bioenergy, geothermal and marine energy. Hydropower has the largest share in renewable energy installations, followed by the windpower.

Global windpower installed capacity, in over ninety countries, is around 600 GW. In recent years China has emerged as the largest wind-based power producer with installed generation capacity of 214 GW i.e. about 36 percent share in global windpower installations. Other top countries using wind for power generation include the USA, Germany, India, Spain, the UK, France, Brazil, Canada, and Italy in the same order. Interestingly, windpower capacity per capita is the highest in Denmark though ranking 14th in the list.

Pakistan stands at the 33rd position among wind-based power countries with nominal 1,048 MW (megawatt) installed windpower capacity, utilising less than one percent of its exploitable potential. It is imperative that the government plans seriously to commercially exploit windpower potential optimally and expeditiously to earnestly meet the challenges of climate change, though private sector has to play a key role. Windpower is clean, abundant, inexhaustible, indigenous, and cost-effective energy resource. It is characterised by increasing cost-competitive compared to conventional fossil-fuel power generation, stable installations, developments in technology, and falling prices of wind turbines in the global market.

Initiative for promoting large-scale use of windpower was taken in 1997-98 when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) took a comprehensive study for commercialisation of windpower potential in the country. The study, completed in April 2001, confirmed that the coastal belt of Sindh possesses enormous potential for economic and sustainable windpower development. Further preliminary studies estimated around 346,000MW windpower generation potential in Pakistan including Sindh, Balochistan, and some parts of the northern areas.

In 2007, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (US Department of Energy) developed the Wind Atlas of Pakistan covering wind resource maps with wind speed and wind power density potential, projecting commercially exploitable potential of 132GW windpower. The country atlas has been validated in subsequent years, and is now part of the Global Wind Atlas prepared by the Technical University of Denmark and the World Bank Group.

According to detailed studies, however, Sindh has potential to develop about 50,000MW windpower at the Gharo-Keti Bandar wind corridor. These resources are considered technologically exploitable and commercially viable for power generation. In addition, about 13,000MW windpower generation could be developed in the coastal area of Balochistan, where the wind sites are available as well as in the northern areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In fact, wind power is unlimited.

Initially, the government planned adding 700MW windpower to the national grid by 2010. For the purpose, 23,645 acres of land in Sindh (District Thatta) was allocated to 15 prospective investors in 2005, and later an additional 10,330 acres to another seven entrepreneurs to develop the projects on Build-Own-Operate (BOO) basis. Nonetheless, there were inordinate delays and various constraints experienced in constructing the windfarms. The first windmill project therefore could come up in 2013. Today, total installed windpower capacity in Pakistan is 1,281MW.

Twenty windfarms are located in Jhampir wind corridor. These are FFC Energy (49.5MW), Zorlu Enerji Pakistan (50MW), Three Gorges Pakistan First Wind Farm (50MW), Sapphire Wind Power (52.8MW), Metro Power Company (50MW), Yunus Energy (50MW), Master Wind Energy (52.8MW), Tapal Wind Energy now ACT Wind (30MW), Gul Ahmed Wind Power (50MW), Sachal Energy Development (49.5MW), UEP Wind Power (99MW), Jhampir Wind Power (50MW), Hawa Energy (49.7MW), Three Gorges Pakistan Second Wind Farm (49.5MW), Three Gorges Pakistan Third Wind Farm (49.5MW), Artistic Wind Power (49.3MW), Hartford Alternative Energy (49.3MW) and three projects of Tricon Boston Consulting (Sappire Group) each of 50MW capacity (150MW). Thus total installed capacity of these windfarms is 1,031MW.

Five windpower projects of about 250MW cumulative capacity are operational in Gharo wind corridor. These installations are Foundation Wind Energy-I (50MW), Foundation Wind Energy-II (50MW), Tenaga Generasi Ltd (49.5MW), Hydro-China Dawood Power (49.5MW) and Zephyr Power (50MW). Another four projects are at advanced stage of construction at Jhampir and Gujjo (District Thatta). These include Western Energy (50MW), Trans-Atlantic Energy (48.3MW), Shaheen Renewable Energy (51MW) and Burj Wind Energy (13.8MW).

Sachal Energy Development, UEP Wind Power, Three Gorges Pakistan’s Second and Third Wind Farms, and Hydro-China Dawood Power wind projects have been developed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) programme. Financial close of another 12 wind energy projects of cumulative capacity of about 600MW capacity is expected to be achieved this year. The list includes Norinco international (50MW), ACT 2 Wind (50MW), Din Energy (50MW), Indus Wind Energy (50MW), Lakeside Energy (50MW), NASDA Green Energy (50MW), Iran-Pak Wind (49.5MW), Zulaikha Energy (50MW), Noor Energy (50MW) and Titan Energy (9MW), whereas Western Energy (50MW) and Cacho Wind Energy (50MW) are being developed under the CPEC initiative. The National Electricity Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has so far issued 47 licenses for windpower generation in Sindh.

On the other hand, there are challenges in harnessing the windpower as it is intermittent and inflexible, and requires back-up generation capacity. Windpower is stable for stand-alone applications, however, it is problematic in grid system for complex technical reasons and it does not offer effective integration of various sources of energy. According to the NEPRA State of Industry Report 2018, “Technically, the grid can take up to 30-40 percent of wind energy”. Furthermore, there are transmission limitations at the NTDC grid system at present for evacuation of power from new power plants.

The non-availability of wind turbines and allied equipment locally can seriously hamper the efforts to develop the wind energy systems optimally. All the components of a wind turbine such as blades, controller, gearbox, shafts, rotors, towers etc can be manufactured locally.

However, state-of-the-art technology has to be acquired from abroad as the research activities related to the atmospheric fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, and structural dynamics are involved in the selection of turbine size and configuration.In the early years of the 2000s a few turbine manufacturers, including Kenetech Wind Power Inc, USA, and Vestas Wind Systems, Denmark, had shown interest in progressive manufacturing of wind turbines in Pakistan but the vested interests discouraged these efforts. Alas, we continue to depend on imports of wind turbines and its accessories.