Wind power: The whir of turbines to come

Published: August 6, 2012
Email
The government has allotted a total of around 39,000 acres to all the projects, the biggest of which involves NBT Wind Energy Pakistan. DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD

The government has allotted a total of around 39,000 acres to all the projects, the biggest of which involves NBT Wind Energy Pakistan. DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD

KARACHI: 

Without incentives from the government, alternative energy in Pakistan has been costly and hence elusive. But all of this might change soon with wind power – about 30 projects are in progress and have the potential to add 1,800 megawatts (MW) to the national grid. Around half of them are expected to be completed by next June.

A total of around 39,000 acres have been allotted to all the projects, the biggest of which involves NBT Wind Energy Pakistan, a Norway-based company, and Malakoff, a company based in Malaysia. They have been allotted around 908 acres by the Sindh government and their wind turbines will be spread over 12,000 acres.

The expected completion date of the project, which is being touted as the largest wind farm in Asia, is December 2013. It costs $1.2 million per MW, and since it has the potential to generate 500MW, the total comes out to $600 million. Two other projects, which will add 50MW to the grid by next year, belong to the Pakistan Army through the Fauji Fertilizer Company.

Previous wind mapping projects have concluded that 3 per cent of Pakistan’s land area is ‘Class 4+’, which means that it is excellent for utility scale applications of wind power. If all of this space is used, an additional 132,000 MW can be generated. The UNDP as well as National Renewable Energy Laboratory have also identified wind corridors spanning up to 180 kilometers in Pakistan.

For wind power projects, the government has set a rate of return of 17 per cent for investors, with a tariff of 14.6 cents per kilowatt-hour. The head of the Sindh Board of Investment, Zubair Motiwalla, thinks this is a generous offer. “Around 30 investors, including one of the biggest energy companies in the world, have already expressed their interest,” he said at his office in the Finance and Trade Centre. “There is a five-year payback period, and then you can start adjusting the price.”

He added that the National Transmission and Dispatch Company’s (NTDC) grids need to be upgraded. It can take four to five years for transmission lines to be laid, but Motiwalla says that they are already available and NTDC has already given access to them.

However, wind energy is an intermittent power source dependent entirely on the whims of Mother Nature. It cannot be switched on or off the way gas, oil, or hydropower can be, and unlike solar power, energy storage is not an option with wind power. Therefore NTDC will need to compensate for any sudden losses in power to the grid.

When asked if the national grid is in shape to compensate for power losses, Motiwalla said, “That is not a headache for us or our investors – it is a problem for the NTDC to worry about.” He also feels that renewable energy will be able to tackle the circular debt issue plaguing the Sui Southern Gas Company, Karachi Electric Supply Company and the other utility services.

Many projects that were started in previous years never got off the ground. The director of administration at the Sindh Board of Investment, Zubair Channa, explains that this was because they were never given incentives or guarantees. “But now, if the projects that are expected to be completed by next June don’t get finished on time, the project’s guarantees, which are $300,000 per MW, will be forfeited.”

Channa warned that people shouldn’t erroneously assume that if these projects start running, another 1,800MW will be added to the grid. He said that even during a good wind season, the average production capacity usually falls by around 40 to 50 per cent and in October through December, the wind drops so drastically that it can barely produce anything. But Channa said that Pakistan is fortunate to have the best winds in the summer, which coincides with the peak demand for electricity.

The best wind corridors out of those identified in southern Pakistan stretch from Hyderabad to Gharo, the coastal areas south of Karachi and the hills and ridges between Karachi and Hyderabad.

But one obstacle that may come in the way of wind power is traditional energy providers, who may view renewable energy as a threat. “There will always be opposition [to renewable energy] and oil lobbies are out there. We can feel them coming but the odds are being overcome,” said Motiwalla.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (17)

  • Aug 6, 2012 - 3:39AM

    India will try to stop the wind now.

    Recommend

  • Khalq e Khuda
    Aug 6, 2012 - 3:40AM

    Great move by Sindh government! Renewable energy is the door to future and economic independence. This should be followed by local manufacture and installation of turbines so wind farms can be installed by private investors for captive use.

    Recommend

  • academic
    Aug 6, 2012 - 3:44AM

    17 cent/ mw is way toomuch. In the us, coal produces electricty at 5 cents/ mw. How can our businesses compete with much more productive and efficient competitors.

    Recommend

  • Sarah
    Aug 6, 2012 - 6:33AM

    About time we look at renewable and clean energy. Pakistan is blessed with water wind and sun. We should be exporting energy and not other way around.

    Recommend

  • Imran
    Aug 6, 2012 - 6:42AM

    Good going PPP !!

    Recommend

  • Bitter Reality
    Aug 6, 2012 - 7:58AM

    Till 2050 I will be reading Pakistan is starting wind power project next year. LMAO

    Recommend

  • Asad
    Aug 6, 2012 - 9:05AM

    17 cent/kw

    Recommend

  • Caramelized_Onion
    Aug 6, 2012 - 9:39AM

    Renewable energy is the door to future and economic independence.

    Sadly not true. Wind energy cannot be used as your ‘base power’ generation, unless there are vast quantities of wind farms across the country. Even then it is deemed too unreliable.

    The answer to Pakistan’s energy problems is efficient base power generation from existing sources and then using renewable sources like wind and solar to smooth out base power shortages. But for that, the entire top cadre of WAPDA needs to be changed and the whole company audtied. That cannot happen with the present government in power.

    Over here, we don’t have enough base power, and we’re wasting money on ill conceived renewable projects. But then again, this is Pakistan, land of the ‘water-kit’.

    Recommend

  • Rif
    Aug 6, 2012 - 10:47AM

    The expected completion date of the project, which is being touted as the
    largest wind farm in Asia, is December 2013. It costs $1.2 million per MW,
    and since it has the potential to generate 500MW

    Great to see Pakistan building large wind farms of 500 MW.

    However this is not the largest in Asia. The largest in Asia which actually is the world largest is Jaisalmer Wind Park in India with 1064 MW.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaisalmer_Wind_Park

    Recommend

  • A S
    Aug 6, 2012 - 3:21PM

    The European countries have gone a bit cold on this project. This project is naturally good in the long term but the investment cost is far too great in relation to low return gained so far.
    The answer to hig investment cost is to produce all the equipment, if possible, locally in Pakistan thus cutting down on the high labour cost. For material I am not sure whether it can be produced locally or not.

    Recommend

  • Khalq e Khuda
    Aug 6, 2012 - 3:24PM

    @Caramelized_Onion:

    Renewable energy includes wind, solar, hydro and other natural resources.These entire projects are being built without any government investment and it is the present government which put the entire plan into action not the previous one. So quit the whining and call spade a spade for once.

    Recommend

  • Zafar Ihsan
    Aug 6, 2012 - 5:06PM

    Zorlu Energy has already setup 3 wind turbines of 1.2MW capacity each in Jhimpir, which are operational.

    Recommend

  • Salim
    Aug 9, 2012 - 12:02AM

    wind power is very expensive………….Pakistan needs cheap power…..IP gas line is the way forward…………..

    Recommend

  • KhuRram Kaleem
    Aug 11, 2012 - 3:55AM

    All top Wapda board member from 1985 to 2005 should be called by parliamentary committee and take testimony and learn from the past mistake.

    Recommend

  • no one
    Aug 13, 2012 - 10:59AM

    @Asad:
    its 14.6 cent

    Recommend

  • Aug 13, 2012 - 10:46PM

    @Zaid Hamid:
    hahahahhaha

    Recommend

  • Ahmad Mirza
    Aug 19, 2012 - 5:10AM

    1 cent = 0.9 Rs (90 Paisas)

    14.6 cents = 13 Rs. / KwH … this cost’s as much as RPP’s … yeah good going PPP … for screwing whatever was left in Pakistan.

    Recommend

More in Business