Sri Lanka must tap all renewable energy

Energy experts believe Sri Lanka should now tap all possible renewable energy sources to cut down on the use of fossil fuels which comes to the country at a high price.

  "Our economy will fall behind if we continue spending on foreign oil and coal every year," said Executive Director Energy Forum Ashoka Abeygunawardane at a recent workshop in Colombo.

  The global energy challenges faced by the so called developed countries are startling. Demand is rising rapidly and will continue to do so. It is clear we overly depend on the source of energy -fossil fuels.     

Sri Lanka should have extensive studies on the wind patterns to tap wind energy and solar power as the major energy sources.

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Vice President of the USA Al Gore said in future societies will rely on small, diversified and renewable sources of energy, ranging from windmills and solar photovoltaics to second generation ethanol and bio diesel production facilities. 

  Al Gore believes rising investment in new energy and environmental technologies can be the source of future economic growth, jobs and exports.

  It is estimated by next year the global environmental market -clean energy, waste and water could be worth almost USD 700 billion, a sector as big as the successful aerospace or pharmaceutical sector.  

A workshop organized recently by the Sri Lanka Press Institute and supported by Practical Action, an Intermediate Technology Developing Group focused that renewable energy is the way forward.

Most environmentalists agree wind power is the prefect solution to the energy crisis because of its potential in a tropical country like ours and the lesser impact especially on biodiversity.

  Partly because of no carbon emissions wind turbines are springing up around the world. Installations have been growing by 28 per cent a year since 2000, with a record 40 per cent leap in 2005. However, all this started from a very low base, and wind still makes up a mere 0.2 per cent of the global energy mix.

  While in India wind energy generation is almost 8,000 MW, Sri Lanka generates three MW in Hambantota, though Sri Lanka has potential to generate 24,000MW wind energy.

  Fourteen families in Nikaweratiya are benefiting from the community based wind system. There is very good potential of wind energy in the dry zone. Of course, disadvantages are sound level, blades harming birds, visual effect and electric magnetic interference.

  The US is the world’s biggest wind market with an estimated 8,000 MW of new capacity was installed in US last year which will supply enough electricity for nearly three million homes represent a jump of 50 per cent on the heels of 2007 45 per cent increase.  

  Though there were contradictory views expressed by the senior officials of the Practical Action. The Island welcomes their candid views. One of the officials, Project Manager Energy Rohitha Ananda said that it is the initial cost that matters, after which solar will be one of the best options one could think of.

  He added: "The provision of solar electricity from the national grid has not been possible due to capacity limits and cost effectiveness and therefore, in Sri Lanka solar power is exploited in a very small scale, and are mostly found in rural areas." 

However, Projects Manager Namiz Musafer said solar energy power depends chiefly on the movements of the sun and it is unlikely to tap the average energy need of a house.  

It is recorded that earth receives about one part in two billion of total energy emitted by the sun. This energy is around 13,000 times higher than commercial used 20 years ago in the world.  

  Other renewable energy options include bio gas, micro and Pico hydro, bio fuels and bio mass.

  Practical Action Project Officer, M A Gihan Sajeewa, who is involved in a number of water turbine projects in Kuruwita, Sabaragamuwa Province says presently they are involved in 15 projects and have identified another 25 sites.

  He said now they are generating six KW and hopefully it would be increased to 25 KW. "We have the potential to go up to 1,000 KW."   

  While we make attempts to increase our renewable energy sources we must take measures to cut down on the unnecessary use of energy.

  Practical Action Director Architect, Vasanth Pullenayagam said buildings are responsible for at least 40 per cent of energy use.

  All stakeholders in building construction must be aware of the importance of energy efficiency in building.

  He believes energy efficiency is the most cost effective way to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and the resulting green house gas emissions that lead to global warming. Due attention must be given in design, construction and operational phases of buildings to cut down energy.  

Uses of natural basic materials such as clay, sand and straw that reduce energy are recommended.

  Pullenayagam also promotes the use of materials that are produced locally to reduce energy consumption in transportation.

  Avoid or minimize use of synthetic materials that have high levels of embodied energy and also costly, he says and avoid or minimize use of aluminum.   

  The world still needs to shift dramatically toward a less carbon intensive infrastructure. In July last year the leading nations known as the Group of Eight agreed in principle to cut their carbon emissions 50 per cent by 2050 and promised large investments in clean energy technology.  

Europe still pays attractive subsidies to those that make clean energy. As China’s economy grows, it will need all the energy it can get including wind and solar.  

As California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said what’s green to the environment can also be green for the economy. He went on to add: "Solar is the future, it’s now, and it can’t be stopped."  

  It is high time comprehensive studies are made on wind energy potential in the island to find out whether Sri Lanka has the advantage in going for a larger portion of using solar power. It is needless to say that renewable energy would certainly boost the job markets.

  Now it is the time to tap all other renewable energy sources at least in the village or district levels. North is certainly going to be the area for wind energy.

Charts courtesy
Practical Action

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