AIR CDR (RETD) AZFAR A. KHAN
The new government in Pakistan is in place after the February 18, 2008 general elections. It is confronted with major challenges out of which power shortage is the most demanding. Due to energy shortage, the public has been warned that it should tighten its belts and get mentally prepared for massive loadshedding in the summer season. The duration of this load shedding could be as long as 9/11 hours per day!
Pakistan is at present short of 3500 Mega Watts (MW) of electricity. Though it’s evident that this shortage cannot be overcome all of a sudden, still measures could be instituted that could be instrumental in meeting this shortfall. If we utilise fossil fuel for this purpose, it would be extremely costly as oil recently touched an upper limit of $112 per barrel; hence we should look for some other means which could be utilised for the production of electricity.
In this article, I would confine myself to the generation of electricity through wind. The core of my discussion would comprise manufacturing wind turbines, the machines used for the generation of electricity, in Pakistan.
Generation of electricity through wind is not something new. India, the fourth in line of countries in the world for the generation of electricity, is producing more than 8000 MW of electricity by utilising wind turbines. It’s manufacturing these turbines in India and also exporting them!
One would be surprised to know that in the region of Nevarra, Spain, 70% of the region’s energy needs are being fulfilled by wind and solar energy. It’s a classic example of using renewable energy in any country! The logical question that automatically comes to one’s mind is: “If it can be done in Spain, why can’t it be done here in Pakistan?” The answer is a big Yes!
A layman would ask as to what a wind turbine is? As mentioned earlier, simply put, a wind turbine is a machine that is used for the generation of electricity from wind. It’s installed on a tower at a windy location to capture wind so as to generate electricity. The faster the wind would blow; the more electricity would be produced. Once a wind turbine is installed, it would produce energy for 25-30 years free of cost as no other fuel is used except wind through this mode of production!
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 facing the wind. The higher the turbine is installed, the more electricity it would produce. The wind is slow and turbulent near the ground which is not suitable for energy generation.
The wind turbine operates for 363 out of 365 days a year and stopped only for two days during the year for carrying out its scheduled maintenance. If we decide to go for wind energy then the next question would be: “Should we import ready-made wind turbines from abroad or should we manufacture these turbines indigenously in our own country?
During one of my recent lectures on Wind Energy in one of the universities of the country, the same question was posed by a participant, “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. Why can’t we manufacture these turbines ourselves indigenously?” I replied, “Yes, we can, if there’s a will!” We can’t expect the foreign manufacturers to provide these turbines to us as and when we need them due to the long lead time involved.
Moreover, we would always be dependent on the manufacturers for the supply of spares. I further told him that not only we can manufacture these turbines but also export them to other countries as it’s an emerging mode of generating electricity and the wind turbines are in short supply the world over. You’ve to wait quite a bit for your order to materialise. So, if we have to choose the option of producing electricity from the wind, we’ll have to manufacture wind turbines in our own 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 country’s projects of which I happened to be 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 US $10 per hour per technician. On hearing this, the French team leader jumped and declared that, leaving everything else aside, he would be saving US $35 per hour per technician straightaway as a technician of such caliber 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. By the way, Shaheen Foundation, Islamabad maintains a good record of such manpower through its excellent management system.
For generating electricity through wind, we wouldn’t need a fortune. The cost of manufacture can be brought down dramatically if we follow a simple strategy. The strategy would be that we would utilise the existing manufacturing facilities of the country for the manufacture of all the parts and components of the wind turbine and assemble them at a central location, followed by rigorous testing.
During my survey of the country’s existing manufacturing facilities, I got convinced that all the parts and components of the wind turbine could be easily manufactured indigenously.
The blades and the hub (the item to which the blades are firmly connected) 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 undertaken.
The gearbox and the two shafts are purely mechanical items, nothing special in them. We can utilise the services and expertise of Machine Tools Factory, Landhi, Karachi. We can also utilise the expertise available at Heavy Mechanical Complex, Taxila or any other facility dealing in mechanical items. The electrical generator that’s installed behind the gearbox can be produced by any of the electrical concerns at Lahore or Karachi.
The same goes for the controller that utilises electronics besides computer software. We are undertaking much more complicated projects in our electromechanical cum electronics cum computers concerns of the country. This item can be manufactured in these concerns.
As for the steel towers on which the turbines would be installed; these towers are already being manufactured in the country. WAPDA is using thousands of them on the roadside. These towers could be designed and modified as per the desired specifications for use with the wind turbines.
Regarding cables, we have numerous cable manufacturing factories in the country. If required, their existing capacity could be upgraded and augmented to produce cables of the required specs that could be used to connect wind turbines to a home, business, factory or the national grid.
In our country, we possess a lot of wind resource in the province of Sindh and coastal areas of Balochistan. We should be able to meet the major part of electricity requirement of Sindh and Balochistan through wind.
Keeping in view the urgency of the situation, the government has to move fast and solve this problem as soon as possible. It’s a serious challenge for the new government. Long spells of loadshedding are becoming unbearable for the people. The situation would be going from bad to worse with every passing day.
IF WE RESORT TO MANUFACTURING WIND TURBINES IN PAKISTAN, FOLLOWING BENEFITS WOULD ACCRUE:
The locally manufactured turbines would be cost-effective due to the availability of highly skilled and extremely cheap technical manpower; The country would not be dependent on foreign manufacturers for spares. Non-availability of spares could be a major impediment towards the successful completion of any wind turbine project. The country would save precious foreign exchange.
Rather, it would earn foreign exchange by exporting the indigenously manufactured turbines to other countries. The country would also save a huge amount of foreign exchange by curtailing the import of fossil fuel as each turbine would be utilising wind for 20-30 years which’s free.
It may be mentioned that all the leading manufacturers of the world have started the same way ie 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 more than thirty 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. Wherever required, these facilities could be augmented and upgraded.
It only requires excellent management and sincerity of purpose and nothing else! By following this strategy, the cost of manufacturing would come down drastically! If we plan carefully and apply all tools of modern management, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t 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 out of them. Iqbal, the poet of the East has said: Zara num ho to yeh mittee bari zarkhez hai saqi, meaning the earth of this country is highly fertile if we provide some water to it!
(The writer is ex-MD, Kamra Avionics and Radar Factory, E-mail: email@example.com.)
Courtesy: Business Recorder, 20/5/2008