By Azfar A. Khan
Pakistan is experiencing the worst energy crisis these days. Due to energy shortage, massive load-shedding is on in almost all the cities of the country. The public has been warned that they should be mentally prepared to face load-shedding for much longer hours per day, than what is being experienced now, in the forthcoming summer season.
In this scenario, out of many available options, one is to generate electricity through wind energy. Most of the countries of the world are doing it successfully and generating electricity through this resource. One would be surprised to know that in the region of Nevarra, Spain, 70 per cent of the region’s energy needs are being fulfilled with the help of wind and solar energy. It’s a classic example of the usage of renewable energy in any country.
For the benefit of a layman, the basic equipment required to generate electricity through wind is a wind turbine. A typical wind turbine comprises a rotor with one, two or three blades, a gearbox, two shafts, a generator and a controller. The turbine is installed on a steel tower. The higher the turbine is installed, the more electricity would be produced as the wind is slow and turbulent near the ground.
The life of a wind turbine is for 25 to 30 years. The wind that is utilised to generate electricity through the turbine is free. It means that it would keep operating with minimal of maintenance, virtually free of cost. Moreover, it would operate for 363 out of 365 days a year and stop only for two days for maintenance purposes.
If we decide to go for wind energy then the next question would be: “Should we import wind turbines or should we manufacture these turbines indigenously?
During one of my recent lectures on Wind Energy in one of the universities of the country, the same question was asked, “If we go for the wind energy option, we would be needing hundreds of wind turbines in order to make up for the shortfall of electricity in our country. Why can’t we manufacture these turbines ourselves indigenously?” I replied, “Yes, we can, if there’s a will!” I further told him that not only we can manufacture turbines but we can also export them to other countries. The wind turbines are in short supply in the world market. You have to wait quite a bit for your order to materialise.
Our immediate neighbour, India is way ahead in wind technology. It’s making the best use of this resource and has the distinction of being the fourth in the countries of the world which are generating electricity through wind. India is also manufacturing wind turbines indigenously and exporting the same to the other countries. The reason why it is manufacturing these turbines is that it doesn’t want to line up in a queue for materialisation of its orders and also it doesn’t want to be dependent on the foreign manufacturers for the supply of spares, necessary to keep its turbines operational.
It may be mentioned that purchasing anything off-the-shelf from abroad and installing it is quite easy. After installing and commissioning, our job just remains to operate and maintain this equipment. But, we will always be dependent for spares on others. So, if we have to choose the option of producing electricity from the wind, we’ll have to manufacture wind turbines in the country.
Our country is blessed with innumerable gifts from God Almighty, one of them being excellent manpower that’s extremely cheap and hardworking. The skill of this manpower is just marvellous. Here I’d like to narrate a small incident that happened during one of the projects of which I was a member. We wanted to manufacture a certain item in one of the factories of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra for which we had to collaborate with a French company dealing in that item. The French team visited Kamra and evaluated the expertise of our technicians. The French team leader asked his Pakistani counterpart as to what would be the charges for the expertise of his (Pakistani) technicians if it was decided to manufacture the item in Kamra. Our team leader just said off-the-cuff that he would charge $10 per hour per technician. On hearing this, the French team leader jumped and declared that, leaving everything else aside, he would be saving $35 per hour per technician straightaway as a technician of such calibre was charging $ 45 per hour in France! So, this is the type of manpower we have in our country. We can employ such technicians in manufacturing the wind turbines as the day you employ them, they would be productive. Shaheen Foundation, Islamabad maintains a good record of such manpower through its excellent management system.
Presently, Pakistan is short of 3500 mw of electricity. To make up for this shortfall, production through thermal means would be prohibitively costly considering the surge in the oil prices which had crossed $112 a barrel recently. Generating this energy from wind would be extremely cost-effective! India is already producing more than 8000 mw of electricity from wind. Only, initial investment is required. This investment can be brought down to a great extent if we adopt a strategy devised through careful planning. The strategy would help utilise the existing manufacturing facilities of the country for manufacturing all the parts / components of the wind turbine.
During my survey of the country’s existing manufacturing facilities, I found that all the parts / components of the wind turbine could easily be manufactured indigenously. The blades and the hub can be produced without any hassle at Aircraft Manufacturing Factory (AMF), Kamra. If Kamra is unable to undertake this job due to its over-commitment, then there’re other reputable concerns as well where this job could be carried out. The gearbox and the two shafts are purely mechanical items, for which, we can utilise the services and expertise of Machine Tools Factory, Landhi, Karachi. You just name any gear, it can be manufactured in this factory. The electrical generator that’s installed behind the gearbox can be produced by any of the electrical concerns of the country, preferably at Lahore or Karachi. The same goes for the controller that utilises some electronics and computer software. We are undertaking much more complicated projects in our electromechanical cum electronics cum computers concerns. As for the steel towers on which the turbines would be placed, are already being manufactured in the country. WAPDA is using thousands of them on the roadside. These towers could be designed as per the desired specifications. Regarding cables, we have a lot of cables manufacturing factories in the country. If required, their existing capacity could be upgraded / augmented to produce cables of the required specs that could be used to connect wind turbines to a home, factory or the national grid.
Following actions need to be taken while establishing the wind turbines manufacturing facilities in the country:
(1) An intensive survey of the country’s manufacturing facilities needs to be carried out to identify the prospective manufacturers who could be entrusted the job of manufacturing the major parts / components of the wind turbine.
(2) Manufacturing should be undertaken in collaboration with a world-renowned turbine manufacturing company. This way, knowledge and complete transfer of technology would be ensured.
(3) Highly skilled manpower should be deployed.
(4) Manufacturing of the parts / components should be undertaken through vendors who should be short listed on merit and their facilities accredited.
(5) Assembly and testing should be carried out at a central location.
(6) This central facility and all vendors should be certified according to ISO 9001: 2000, the international Quality Management System.
We possess a lot of wind resource in the province of Sindh and coastal areas of Balochistan. At least, we should be able to meet the entire electricity requirements of Sindh and parts of Balochistan through wind.
Energy is going to be a serious challenge for our new government. Long spells of load shedding are unbearable for the people. The government has to move fast and solve this problem as soon as possible.
Manufacture of wind turbines in country has the following benefits:
(1) These turbines would be extremely cost-effective;
(2) The country would not be dependent on foreign manufacturers for spares.
(3) The country would save precious foreign exchange.
(4) It would rather earn foreign exchange by exporting the indigenously manufactured turbines to other countries.
It may be understood that all manufacturers have started the same way i.e. by having a modest start in the beginning and then growing into big manufacturing giants.
Lastly, I must say it with conviction, based on my thirty one years’ experience in the technical field that, instead of setting up manufacturing facilities for each and every part of the wind turbine, we should utilise the existing facilities of the country to their optimum level, for manufacturing these parts. If required, these facilities could be augmented/ upgraded. This is the most cost-effective way of undertaking manufacture of any item, and this strategy is being practiced world over. It only requires excellent management and nothing else! By following this strategy, the cost of manufacturing would come down drastically! If we plan properly and apply all tools of modern management, we should make this experience a thundering success. We have all the facilities and expertise at our disposal. Our manpower is second to none. The only requirement is that we should harness our manpower and facilities to get the maximum output.
Courtesy: The News, 21/4/2008