Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Elephant migration unaffected

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Initial concerns that noise emissions from a 3 MW pilot wind power project in Sri Lanka would affect elephant migration have been put to rest. After monitoring the site at Hambantota in the south-eastern coastal belt for a year, Sri Lanka's Department of Wildlife Conservation has observed no changes in migration patterns, reports project manager Ariyadasa Lekamlage of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

Neither is the wind farm having any other negative impact on the surrounding environment. No significant changes in movements of birds were observed around the site -- particularly significant because it is located three kilometres from a bird sanctuary. Only two birds, a bat and a parrot, were killed as a result of direct collision with turbine blades in 1999. The collisions occurred when the birds flew through the path of blade travel while attempting to perch on the turbine tower.

The project consists of five 600 kW NEG Micon turbines commissioned in March 1999. A third of the $3.8 million project costs were provided by CEB, with the World Bank and its Global Environment Facility financing the rest.

"The pilot project is expected to allow CEB to gain first hand experience with grid connected and related grid-interconnection requirements," says Lekamlage. He adds that the project should also indicate the commercial viability and long-term economic potential of wind power in Sri Lanka, catalysing private sector wind power development.

The CEB has a total installed power capacity of 1610 MW, of which more than half is from hydro plants. Only half of Sri Lankan households are electrified. Sri Lanka is now hoping to integrate renewable energy sources into the system. "Wind is one such option that CEB is considering for large scale development in the future," says Lekamlage.

Studies of wind resource assessment conducted by the CEB from 1988 to 1992, with overseas financial and technical aid from the Netherlands, revealed the total potential of wind power generation in the southern region of the country to be 200 MW.

Social benefits of the pilot project have been many. The majority of villagers agree the electric lights on the turbines help keep the elephants away from the village. More than 75% of the labour force was hired from nearby villages to work on the site and the project created a market for their products, including bricks and metal.

The next step is to analyse grid integration with the local 33 kV network when dealing with a variable power source such as wind, Lekamlage says. "The scope of this work is to study the nearby load centre and the quality of supply when the wind plant is in full operation."

With average annual wind speeds of 6 m/s, the total gross energy production from the wind farm for the year 1999 was about 3500 MWh. The calculated value of CO2 avoided by the plant in comparison to a diesel plant was 2328 million tonnes.

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