Monday, December 1, 2014


"Nature, with equal mind,
 Sees all her sons at play 
Sees man control the wind,
The wind sweep man away."
                       -Matthew Arnold

The Palk Strait is a narrow stretch of water separating India and Sri Lanka. The width of Palk Strait ranges from around 65 to 135 km and depths of about 2 to 12 metres .It is because of such shallow nature of the Palk Strait that large ships do not ply in this area. The shallow waters and reefs of the Strait make it difficult for large ships to pass through, though fishing boats and small ships carrying coastal trade navigate the Strait. A mostly submerged atoll barrier known as Adam’s Bridge stretches from Dhanushkodi (India) to Thalaimannar (Sri Lanka). Since it is open sea, the area is windy. It is also prone to cyclones blowing from the Bay of Bengal. 

The Palk Strait has on either side, two vibrant and rapidly growing economies. There is a huge projected growth in both population and energy consumption in both India and Sri Lanka. India has a basket of energy options. But in spite of all efforts there is immense shortage of energy. India produces around 250 gigawatts of energy and Sri Lanka produces around 4 GW of electricity from various sources. Both of them are heavily dependent on oil and coal imports. 

India alone imports around $120 Billion worth of crude oil every year. India’s net energy imports are at around 6-8 per cent of its GDP. India and Sri Lanka have to look forward together to a future where energy from oil will be costlier. Moreover energy from oil is not climate friendly. There is a need to develop and derive energy from renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy. 

India, along with Sri Lanka and interested private parties (if need be) can both install a series of wind turbines across the Palk Strait to tap the vast energy potential of the region. Several hundreds of high capacity wind turbines can be (relatively) easily installed in the shallow waters of the Strait. 

The electricity so produced can be shared between India and Sri Lanka based on a sharing agreement. Since the water is shallow, installation costs will be low (compared to deep sea installation). Calculations show that electricity in the gigawatt range can be generated if the correctly planned and installed. This will save several billions of dollars in oil and coal import costs. Plus it will provide immense employment benefits and go a long way in strengthening Indo-Sri Lankan friendship. 

Moreover, there will be minimal or no land compensation or rehabilitation costs. The setup cost can be shared with interested non-government parties and organisations. Profits from the venture can be divided accordingly. India already has around 7% of the global wind energy market. India's energy holdings will vastly improve with such a project. The energy network of the wind turbines can be later integrated with the SAARC energy grid.

How much energy do wind turbines really produce?
Every wind turbine has a range of wind speeds, typically around 30 to 90 kmph, in which it will produce at its maximum rated capacity. At gentler wind speeds, the production falls off greatly. If the wind speed decreases by half, power production decreases by a factor of eight. Therefore, on an average, wind turbines do not generate their maximum rated capacity. Industry assessments project an annual output of 35-45%, but practical experience shows that annual outputs of 10-30% of capacity are more characteristic.
With a 25% capacity factor, a 2.5-MW turbine would produce around 4,380,000 kWh in a year. This is enough to power around 5,700 (Indian type) households for a year. Thus one Wind Turbine alone can power 5,700 houses.Imagine thousands of Wind Turbines along the Palk Strait.

A separate wind energy grid can be established. Wind energy can even be channelized into a Renewable energy grid. From here it can be allotted to the consumers. Adjustments can be made for seasonal changes based wind pattern, cyclical changes, variation in energy demand etc.

There are several Advantages of installing wind turbines across the Palk Strait:
1. Setting up and maintaining such huge wind farms require lot of skilled labour. Thus it will generate employment for thousands of youth in both India and Sri Lanka
2. A renewable energy grid can be built with a South Asian outlook. Members of SAARC can pool surplus energy and trade in renewable energy.
3. South Asia is one of the rapidly developing regions. Its dependence on oil and gas is huge. Consequently pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission due to the use of fossil fuels is more. By building huge Wind Farms the dependence on oil can be reduced and so also pollution and GHG emissions.

Thus the building of Wind farms on the Palk Strait seems to have several benefits for the stakeholders. India already has experience in setting up Wind turbines. So it will not be difficult or overly expensive as India has the skill and know-how. India and Sri Lanka can both come together to take up this challenge which can herald a promising future for the South Asian Community.
                                                   - Dr.Kartik Hegadekatti.

Dr.Kartik Hegadekatti is an Indian Civil Service officer presently serving in the Ministry of Railways in India. Views Expressed are Personal.

No comments:

Post a Comment