Air Commodore (Retd) Azfar A. Khan
The new government in Pakistan is in place since February 18, 2008 general elections. It is confronted with formidable 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 load shedding in the summer season. The duration of this load shedding could be as long as 9 to11 hours per day!
A wind farm
Pakistan is at present short of 3500 Mega Watts (MW) of electricity. Though itâ€™s evident that this shortage cannot be overcome all of a sudden, yet measures could be instituted that could be instrumental in meeting this shortfall. If we utilize fossil fuel for this purpose, it would be extremely costly as oil prices keep fluctuating, generally having an upward trend. Hence we should look for some other means which could be utilized for the production of electricity.
In this article, I will confine myself to the generation of electricity through wind. The core of my discussion would comprise manufacturing wind turbines i.e., 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 utilizing wind turbines. Itâ€™s not only manufacturing these turbines but exporting them too!
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. Itâ€™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 slow and turbulent wind near the ground would not be suitable for the generation of electricity.
The wind turbine operates for 363 out of 365 days a year and stopped only for two days during the whole year for carrying out its scheduled maintenance. If we decide to go for wind energy then the next question would be: â€œShould we import ready-made wind turbines from abroad or should we manufacture these turbines indigenously in our own country?â€
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, â€œIf 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 canâ€™t we manufacture these turbines ourselves indigenously?â€ I replied, â€œYes, we can, if thereâ€™s a will!â€ I further explained that we canâ€™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 also told him that not only we can manufacture these turbines but also export them to other countries as itâ€™s an emerging mode for the generation of electricity and the wind turbines are in short supply the world over. One has to wait quite a bit for his order to materialize. So, if we have to choose the option of producing electricity from the wind, weâ€™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 thatâ€™s extremely cheap and hardworking. The skill of this manpower is just marvelous.
Here Iâ€™d like to narrate a small incident that happened during one of the countryâ€™s projects of which I happened to be the Project Director. 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 at Kamra.
Our team leader just said off-the-cuff that he would charge US $10 per hour per technician (Probably, I would also have done the same!). 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! Actually, the French team leader had tasked us to manufacture 18 parts of that item for which his company had also provided us required software and the material. When he again visited Kamra after a month, he personally inspected all the manufactured parts; he immediately cleared all the parts and was highly impressed with the expertise of our technicians.
So, this is the calibre of our technicians who get retired at an early age of 45 and take up all types of jobs (except technical as the same arenâ€™t available) in their native villages where they belong to. Most of them have worked on highly sophisticated equipment including the Surface Mount Devices (SMDs). Surface Mount Devices are high performance miniature components that are directly soldered on to the PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards). These components are 1/10th the size of components whom they have replaced. These technicians are a national asset and are being wasted instead of employing them for nation-building. These technicians (with electronics/avionics background) can be safely employed for the manufacture of solar systems and their counterparts who have worked on aerospace equipment can be deployed for the manufacture of wind turbines as wind turbines are mainly mechanical structures in which very less electronics is used (the control box is the only system that utilizes electronics.) These technicians would be productive the day you employ them due to their solid technical base and 20-25 years experience in a highly technical and disciplined environment. By the way, Shaheen Foundation, Islamabad maintains a computerized record of all ex-air force technicians through its excellent management system.
For generating electricity through wind, we wouldnâ€™t need a fortune. But! You definitely need a fortune if you decide to import them from abroad. The cost of manufacture can be brought down substantially if we follow a simple strategy. The strategy would be that we would utilize the expertise of those organizations which are busy in the manufacture of various high-tech items in the country and, I assure you, that thereâ€™s no dearth of such organizations. The only requirement is that you should have a distinguishing instinct! These manufacturing facilities of the country should be used for the manufacture of all the parts and components of the wind turbine. These components, once manufactured, should be tested individually and assembled at a central location, followed by rigorous testing of the whole turbine at the same location. It may be understood that there has to be NO (repeat) NO compromise of any nature as far as the quality of the manufactured parts is concerned. To obviate the possibility of any such thing, we can employ a quality inspector from the company under whose supervision the manufacturing of wind turbines would be undertaken.
During my brief survey of the countryâ€™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. Kamra is 77 KM from Islamabad while heading towards Peshawar.
The gearbox and the two shafts (low-speed shaft and high-speed shaft) are purely mechanical items, nothing special in them. We can utilize the services and expertise of Machine Tools Factory, Landhi, Karachi for the manufacture of the gear box while the expertise available at Heavy Mechanical Complex, Taxila could be used for the manufacture of both the shafts. They can even manufacture gear box, if required.
The electrical generator thatâ€™s installed behind the gearbox and connected to high-speed shaft can be produced by any of the electrical concerns at Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Lahore or Karachi.
The same goes for the controller that utilizes electronics besides computer software. We are undertaking much more complicated projects in our electromechanical cum electronics cum computers concerns of the country, Air Weapons Complex being one of them. This item can be easily 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 along GT Road. 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 Baluchistan. Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) has collected the Wind Data of all Pakistan from Pakistan Metrological Department and analyzed it. As per the collected data, the coastal belt of Pakistan is blessed by God Almighty with a wind corridor that is 60 km wide (Gharo to Keti Bandar) and 180 km long (up to Hyderabad.) This corridor has the exploitable potential of 50,000 MW of electricity generation through wind energy (courtesy: AEDB).We should be able to meet a major part of our electricity requirement by installing wind turbines in this corridor.
Keeping in view the urgency of the situation, the government has to move fast and solve this problem as soon as possible. Itâ€™s a serious challenge for the new government. Long spells of load shedding would be 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 utilizing wind for 20-30 years whichâ€™s free. Even after use for such a long period, these turbines could be refurbished and provided a new lease of life. Thereâ€™re companies who undertake this job.
It may be mentioned that all the leading manufacturers of the world have started the same way i.e. by having a modest start in the beginning and then growing into big manufacturing giants. India has done the same. It collaborated with a world-renowned company whose 26,000 turbines are being used around the globe. This company trained Indian technicians and also transferred requisite technology. Now, India is exporting world-class turbines to other countries. We should emulate Indiaâ€™s example and have a joint venture with a world- renowned company to set up facilities and manufacture these turbines under its supervision. Then, slowly and steadily, we can take over complete manufacturing from that company.
Lastly, I must say it with conviction, based on my more than thirty yearsâ€™ experience in the technical field that, instead of setting up manufacturing facilities for each and every part of the wind turbine, we should utilize the existing facilities of the country to their optimum level for manufacturing each and every part of the wind turbine. Wherever required, these facilities could be augmented and upgraded.
It only requires excellent management and sincerity of purpose and nothing else! By following the above-mentioned strategy, the cost of manufacturing would come down drastically! If we plan carefully and apply all tools of modern management, thereâ€™s no reason why we shouldnâ€™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 renowned poet of the East, has said: â€œZara num ho to yeh mattee bari zarkhez hai saqi,â€ meaning the earth of this country is highly fertile if we provide some water to it!
About the author
Air Commodore (Retd) Azfar A Khan has 31 yearsâ€™ experience in technical management. He has been MD of a factory at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra. He delivers lectures on wind and solar energy and conducts short courses on ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, ISO 17025, SA 8000, HACCP and Internal Auditing. For any clarification or information, kindly contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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