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Alternative energy options available in Pakistan

Published on 3rd Mar, Edition 9, 2014

 

Over the past 30 years, one of the major players in the world is considered to be Asia in term of high growth rate. China and India are developing at a rapid pace, more rapidly than what anyone had expected. Due to this, the demand of electricity is likely to increase each year by 8% till 2015. With such increases in demand along with the increase in prices, electricity would have to be obtained from other renewable resources such as solar energy and wind energy. Pakistan is in an ideal position to be able to make use of these kinds of alternative sources of energy as it has both in abundance.

Pakistan is one of the fortunate countries having something, which many other countries do not i.e. high wind speeds. The wind speed near Islamabad ranges from 6.2 to 7.4 meters per second whereas near Karachi, the winds speed ranges from 6.2 to 6.9 meters per second. Along with Karachi and Islamabad, a number of other areas within the country too receive a great amount of wind. In the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, there exists enough wind energy to be able to provide power to every coastal village, which is found in the country. Furthermore, a corridor exists between Keti Bandar and Gharo, which on its own has the capability of producing 40,000-50,000 megawatts of electricity.

Considering Pakistan to have such a high potential in terms of wind energy, it has much to offer to the rest of Asia. In the previous years, a number of projects have been completed by the government as well in order to show that the country has viable wind energy. In Mirpur Sakro, 85 micro turbines have been installed which provide power to 356 homes whereas in Kind Malir, 40 turbines provide power to 111 homes. Another initiative taken by the Alternative Energy Development Board is the acquisition of 18,000 acres of land for the installation of further turbines to produce power through wind energy.

Along with high wind speeds in major areas of the country and the corridor in Keti Bandar and Gharo, another aspect which gives Pakistan an upper hand is the existence of lakes and rivers in the country. Wind turbines, which are built near the water get a constant supply of uninterrupted flow of wind, which ensures that power will be available at all times. While the wind speeds in the city can be affected due to the presence of buildings and various infrastructure, which causes damage to wind turbines, turbines those built near rivers and lakes are a better option. Furthermore, due to the amount of noise caused by these turbines, many people do not wish them to be located near their homes, within the city, however, this problem is usually over exaggerated and wind turbines rarely make noise which would affect the daily activities of people.

Another alternative source of energy, which Pakistan can make use of is solar energy. Pakistan is a sunny country with summer prevailing throughout 9 months of the year. If 0.25% of Balochistan contained solar panels consisting of 20% efficiency, enough electricity would be able to be generated in order to take care of the energy demands of the country.

Solar energy is considered to be a very sensible option for Pakistan due to variety of reasons. First of all, 70% of the population of Pakistan resides in 50,000 villages, which are a great distance from the national grid, stated by the Solar Energy Research Centre. It would be extremely costly to connect these villages to the national grid to provide them with electricity. Hence, solar energy seems to be a more viable option. Installing each home with a solar panel would not only be cost efficient but it would change the lives of people both socially and economically.

A number of villages in Pakistan make use of animal dung and wood to obtain fuel for cooking. This is, however, associated with a consequence of widespread deforestation. Women are expected to walk a number of miles in search of wood. In addition, their health suffers while they cook due to the smoke, which is emitted from the wood fires. The Alternative Energy Development Board completed a project in which villagers who received solar panels were also provided with solar cookers. This helped in reducing deforestation in and around the villages by 80%. An additional benefit produced through this project was that since the solar cookers were made within the country, it helped in generating economic growth. Such examples of projects are the kind which can be adopted and implemented to not only make electricity and power available for the masses and in rural areas in particular, it can help stimulate the economy by manufacturing the equipment needed within the country.

A third alternative available to the country is that of coal power. Pakistan has the 5th largest coal deposit in the world. However, despite this advantage, a number of risks associated with the usage of coal make one question the feasibility of coal in terms of its environmental impacts. When power is produced using coal, it leads to the production of nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide, which cause ozone depletion, an increase in smog and acid rain. Furthermore, coal mine waste can seep into the groundwater as well as rivers, which are used in the country can contaminate the water being supplied throughout the nation causing an added problem.

It is quite evident that Pakistan is a suitable country in terms of fulfilling the requirements for installing turbines to make use of wind energy and solar power. In 2006, it was reported that the economic growth achieved by the country had reached 8.4 percent and would have continued to grow in the near future as well. While power outages in the country occur on almost a daily basis, the progress of the country’s economy requires this issue to be resolved. With increases in the price of oil and gas as well, the most viable option for the country seems to be the use of alternative resources. While these may be costly to install and set up, the benefits outweigh and the costs for the long run.

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