GONE WITH THE WIND

By NPL

Published July 5, 2011


The day was cloudy and humid as I left Karachi to roam in Sindh, though I didn’t have an itinerary but Kenjahr Lake was the becoming an ultimate destination in my mind. I took the Super Highway opposed to the usual National Highway for my journey as I wanted to take another route, so that I can pass through the areas of Nooriabad and Jhampir. On the route one can see the poor display of the presence of Governmental Infrastructure, however as you take a turn to move towards Jhampir, you will find less and less display of this depleted commodity. As I got closer to Jhampir, I found myself in front of huge fan-looking things, what are these, and there I got the flash back of my country’s energy crisis. Coming back to the scene, these in front of me were the Wind Turbines as I was moving through a, what is known as, “Wind Farm”. These are the part of your usual sight if you move through any developed country’s highways and country sides, as I recall from my journeys through most of Europe.

PHOTOS (from Left to Right; the writer took these photographs on his journeys): Wind Turbines on the autobahn near Harburg, Germany, Wind Turbines at Jhampir, Pakistan and Wind Turbines on the auto-route near Toulouse, France.


Surely the sight of these huge machines (approx. 200 feet high) worth a million (actually these types of turbines usually cost more than a million dollars each), as that means energy which has become so scarce in my homeland. I really wanted to see more of them; ironically there I was witnessing only five turbines from which one was not yet completed, though I hope this sight will become an ordinary part in every Pakistani’s life in near future.

Pakistan, as we know, is gifted with so many wonders in which wind is one. If you ask anyone who has experience in Wind Energy about Pakistan, he or she will call this corridor (the Wind Corridor, starting from Pakistan and ending in India) along with other areas in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab “a heaven”, as the wind velocity is ideal or as I’ve frequently heard “more than ideal” for wind farm development.

If we see our country, along with other huge problems “Energy Crisis” is one of the dominant ones as if everyone around us is talking about it, it’s everywhere. Recently, there was an exhibition “Re-Engineering Pakistan” at the Expo Centre, Karachi, where students belonging to numerous universities from all over Pakistan presented various projects that they under took during their graduation. The notion was quite obvious from majority of these projects that we are going through an energy crisis and we want to do something about it. Numerous projects were proposing various solutions to conserve energy or to produce it using alternative resources such as solar and biofuel, also there were ones proposing solar, electric and fuel efficient machines or cars. These initiatives by the students, makes one wonder how much they are concerned about their country’s future and how they are following literally and figuratively on one of Ahmad Faraz’s thought:

Shikwa-e-zulmat-e-shab se to kahin behtar tha,

Apne hisse ki koi shamma jalate jaate

(Means: It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness)

They are the torchbearers and they are surely burdened with a task that would never have existed if their previous generations have ever cared about them.

Is there a real need of these projects: Gas resources are depleting in Pakistan and we will face a massive gap in supply and demand somewhere around 2025 along with its current load-shedding; the situation of imported furnace oil is quite unclear with rising prices; for coal we are crawling towards our objective of using this domestic reserve for power generation and still we are dependent on the imported coal; hydel power will take years to come into action and has been shelved on numerous occasions due to various political issues and provincial-mistrust, so we need to look out for other sources of energy. Coming back to where I was standing that is at Jhampir, facing tornedo of dust and hot high velocity wind, one thing was irritating my mind, that these alternative sources of energy are appropriate albeit these are used as supporting energy structures all around the world. Will these wind , solar or bio-fuel alternatives be an eye-wash or will they provide substantial, dependable power to aid the deficit part of our energy equation in the long run? I don’t have a definitive answer to these questions as time will tell the true story, meanwhile my version of the story can only say that the future looks bright as far as these alternative resources are concerned, however we need honest and judicious use of these resources.

As far as these wind energy initiatives are concerned, it is commendable that various local and foreign investors and players are taking their part to develop numerous wind farms to capitalize on this gift of wind corridor. The under-developed wind farm that I mentioned earlier is a Turkish investment for around 50 MW which will be connected to Jhampir Grid Station of HESCO that will eventually be connected to the National Grid. Also, there is an under developed site nearby which is developed by FFC for around 50 MW. In future there are also plans for more sites at Keti Bandar and Thano Bula Khan among others.

Sometimes these targets look quite over-ambitious ones, as one perspective of infrastructure always come to the fore-front with ugly faces as one of my acquaintances told me what problems (he called it “Nightmares”) they faced such as no or single roads, no machinery or equipment support, numerous hurdles on the way to bring huge, costly, imported equipment and components to sites from Karachi Port.

In search for other benchmarks we don’t need to go far as our neighbor shares the same corridor of wind with us but a very little part of it nevertheless they have capitalized better; they have a developed company that is among the top ten manufactures of wind turbines in the world and they supply components not only for local as well as for the international customers. I am saying this because we need numerous foreign consultants (in terms of Wind Turbines, mostly German, Polish and Portuguese consultants) to engineer and commission these projects for us. We use our human and other resources mostly for operations and maintenance purposes. Even in various maintenance issues of these turbines we are dependent on these consultants and sometimes it takes weeks (months in some cases) for the help to come. The term “Life Cycle Costing” is frequently used on projects, that means developing a product is one face of the coin and keeping it running is another and we need to combine both faces to get the complete picture. Developing one or two wind farms with external help is understandable but if we are going to have many of these, do we have any plan for developing our own human resources to handle the complete development of this technology indigenously (as our neighbor did) is still a big question mark.

Along with the technical development there is a drought of good managers also. Usually we call our experienced engineers to manage these huge projects, who have previously worked remarkably in operations. This Halo Effect phenomenon is highly apparent in our industry that is if one is good in managing operations then he or she will be equally good in managing projects; however project is a different ball game as compared to operations. We are not intellectually deficient rather we are initiatively deficient that is we don’t take decisions and initiatives where we should. So along with these initiatives of wind farms, we need to plan thoroughly for our human resources development so that we can become self-sufficient in developing and managing the new technology. Also, in the wake of our deteriorating security conditions the foreign engineers and consultants usually are in a hurry and on numerous other projects they simply refuse to come to Pakistan, thus affecting on the time line and costs of the projects. These energy development projects are praiseworthy initiatives but every other project is facing cost overruns and it’s behind schedule, all making the life tougher for the common man day by day as everything in his life revolves around energy. Although this energy is his basic need but there is another vital factor of cost that is he needs it cheaply. This is another face of this crisis that is if we are planning for various solutions for overcoming the power shortage, we need to realize that the solution should be affordable as well for the common man.

Per Capita Energy Usage versus GDP Per Capita from 1970 to 2008 Source: Free material from www.gapminder.org


Statistics show us clearly that the GDP of a nation is directly related to its per capita usage of electricity. For developed countries this holds true and we can easily see where we stand if we can recall our GDP as mentioned in the recently presented budget. To develop our country which will be depicted by a healthy GDP, we need to increase the per capita usage of electricity by providing unwavering, dependable and reliable energy door to door.

My journey finished at Kenjhar Lake where the cool breeze refreshed me and I forgot all the issues that were occupying my mind half an hour earlier. I took the same route and reached home, and to shed the fatigue that I have accumulated after the whole day travel, as I laid down for rest, all of a sudden load shedding struck. Then I stood up and in following on Faraz’s advice literally lit a candle.

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