Pakistani wind turbines power innovation
Pakistan is looking to wind power plants as a way to solve the country's persistent energy shortage.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari formally inaugurated the country's first major wind power project – the 50MW Jhimpir Wind Power Plant,140km from Karachi – on December 24.
The wind farm, funded by the Fauji Fertiliser Company (FFC), should produce marginal relief for the energy-starved nation but will be a significant step toward a self-sufficient energy policy and clean energy, conservationists say.
"We have made a comprehensive plan to change our energy mix to generate cheaper electricity by using indigenous resources like wind," Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, federal minister for water and power, said according to a January 2 report by Dawn.
"Forty-five wind power projects of around 3,200MW capacity are under progress and the FFC will be adding 10MW solar generation to its 50MW wind project, making this a hybrid plant," he said. "The next year will see at least ten more projects at an investment of over US $2 billion (Rs. 194 billion)."
To reduce the gap between supply and demand, another 150MW wind project is under construction and solar capacity will be developed simultaneously, he said.
Pakistan's energy challenges and pursuit of solutions
Any help is welcome in Pakistan's perpetual electricity shortage. The daily shortfall is an estimated 4,000-5,000MW, with a peak demand of 17,500MW during the summer. Resultant load shedding (blackouts) severely hampers business, industry and agriculture.
Pakistan generates most of its electricity by burning costly imported oil, but indigenous resources like wind and solar can supplement the power supply and reduce dependence on foreign sources.
"We are short of electricity and trying to get out of a current crisis situation," Arif Alauddin, CEO of Pakistan's Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB), told Central Asia Online. "This project signifies an era of green and pollution-free energy coming into Pakistan. And it also negates the perception that people are avoiding investing in Pakistan due to the security situation."
Pakistan is a good candidate for wind and solar alternative energy projects, some say.
"Pakistan has alternative energy resources all over the country," Mehmood Akhter Cheema, a scientist associated with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, told Central Asia Online. "We have sunny days and wind corridors."
A study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and others also indicates that the country has vast potential for wind power production. The 65km-long Gharo-Keti Bandar Wind Corridor in the Thatta District has the potential for about 50,000 MW of electricity, it estimated.
The Jhimpir Wind Power Project is spread over 1,200 acres with scores of giant wind turbines. Next to it, another 56MW wind power project owned by the Turkish firm Zorlu Enerji is ready to begin operation in the coming weeks. In addition, three more 150MW wind power projects are under way in the same coastal belt. Funding for the projects comes from both local and foreign sources.
Though such investment in power generation is needed in Pakistan, the AEDB is concerned that the country's infrastructure may need improvements as the new power stations come online. "I am afraid that we may have overcommitted ourselves with investors in terms of what grid capacities are and how much energy we can take," Alauddin said. "We are working closely with the authorities concerned and asking them to upgrade their grids so that [they] might not become a barrier in receiving this electricity."
Energy's effect on extremism
In recent years, lack of sufficient power supply has been a major cause of Pakistani unrest and violence, according to analysts who link militancy and extremism to the resulting social condition.
"Energy shortages, while blocking growth, are also limiting employment opportunities," said a report compiled by the Pakistan Energy Sector Task Force comprising members of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan in October 2010. "These shortages are therefore a serious handicap in the government's strategy to fight the poverty that breeds extremism and violence in society at a time when the country is fighting a war against terrorism in its border areas."