Wondering about windRather than focusing only on hydropower, the government should consider other energy options such as wind power
Amid the fuel crisis, the issue of Nepal’s energy insecurity has yet again come into the limelight. But over the years, the government has been making efforts to make the country more energy sufficient. The National Planning Commission, in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme, had prepared the Perspective Energy Plan for 1991-2017, an indicative plan which was supposed to incorporate a number of strategies, general as well as sector specific, in the areas of new and renewable energy resource development. Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) was established in 1996 with an objective of disseminating and promoting renewable energy technology in the country. Nepal started producing hydropower in 1911, even before China, and generated 556.5 MW by 2005, whereas 733 MW of hydropower and 100 KW of solar power were produced by 2014. However, following a ‘hydel-only’ policy—with the possible impact of climate change on the Himalayas and river systems originating from them—would be like putting all the eggs in one basket.
The other option
Apart from hydropower, a cheaper and faster alternative renewable energy is wind power. Wind energy is clean, effectively infinite and one of the most cost-effective sources of power. And as wind turbine technology has improved, the cost of wind energy has dropped steadily over the past few years.
Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) said that 2015 had been a good year for the wind industry as more than 53GW of wind power had been installed last year. At present, wind power is installed in more than 80 countries. Globally, 51,473 MW of new wind generating capacity was added in 2014 according to the GWEC with total cumulative installations of 369,597MW, whereas at the end of 2015 it has reached 422GW with China retaining its top position with 146GW of wind power followed by the US with 70GW, Germany 41GW, UK 13.6GW and India 23GW.
Even in Nepal, the government had launched a five-year initiative, worth $275 million, to generate 20MW of electricity from wind energy in and around the Kathmandu Valley through public-private partnerships. There were also plans of building a model wind turbine of 500KW and providing assistance to small-scale wind turbine manufacturers generating less than 10KW. However, such plans and programmes could not be realised.
Nepal is a mountainous country with a high potential for wind energy. On average, Nepal gets 18 hours of wind every day in particular areas and at least two days a week, it is really windy all over the country. The analysis done by the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment concludes that about 6, 074 sq km of land all over the country has the potential for wind power with density greater than 300 watt per square meter. The analysis established that more than 3,000MW of power with an installed capacity of 5MW per sq km was possible and Kathmandu Valley alone was capable of producing 70MW, whereas two districts, Mustang and Manang, have a potential of more than 2500MW. Wind generation capacity is particularly high in the river corridors and mountain valleys.
Nepal has a very short history of utilising wind energy. The first attempt was made in Rampur, Chitwan in the early seventies followed by in Ramechhap in the late seventies, whereas the first wind turbine generator was installed in Kagbeni, Mustang in 1989 with two 10KW wind turbine generators. There were also other attempts made by Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology, Nepal Army, Practical Action, AEPC, Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) among others. These organisations have collected vital information regarding prospects of wind energy in Nepal while installing wind turbines in their selected sites.
AEPC has already collected wind data in more than eleven potential areas of the country whereas DHM has collected such data over 40 stations since 1967.
A modern large wind turbine is not practical in Nepal as the blades cannot be disassembled and need to be delicately handled, which requires good road access for transportation. So for the time being, smaller wind turbines are ideal for the country. The hill effect on wind turbines placed on hills provides additional benefits to the wind turbine projects in Nepal.
Surrounding mountainous range around the Kathmandu Valley is about 105 km and if small wind turbines as pilot project could be installed at an interval of 100 meters, it could generate about 5MW. If they are installed as a cluster, certainly more power could be obtained. Further, such turbines could also be installed in other windy locations around the country. The government needs to realise that there are other types of renewable energy sources than hydropower, and due attention should be given to them as well.
Bassi is a former deputy director general of Department of Water Induced Disaster Prevention