Blowing in the Wind
On 18 July last year, the Cabinet Standing Committee for Procurement approved ‘Sinosar-Etechwin’ a subsidiary of the Chinese wind turbine manufacturer ‘Goldwind’, recipient of the award by the ADB of a US$ 12 million project to set up a hybrid wind and solar energy project on Delft, Nainativu and Analativu, three islands off the coast of Jaffna located in the Palk Strait. Sinosar-Etechwin specialise in solar wind integrated power generation systems. Delft Island is located approximately 52 kilometres from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. The project is to be implemented as a joint venture with the State-owned Ceylon Electricity Board. The project was awarded on an international tender.
The Cabinet approval to Sinosar-Etechwin was granted in conjunction with the cancellation of the development and operation of the East Container Terminal (ECT) contract with Japan and India.
In May 2019 the Yahapalana Government, who had inefficiently halted port operations from 2015, offered the ECT to India and Japan to operate. The Cooperation pact was a three way joint venture with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) holding on to 51 per cent controlling shares. The balance was to be split between India and Japan with the latter providing a loan to Sri Lanka and the former leading the operations. The GoSL recently overturned the deal knuckling under the protests launched by the inflexible Colombo Ports Authority labour Union which was also an election pledge given by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sri Lanka now plans to develop and operate the ECT without foreign intervention. The GoSL has offered the WCT instead to India and Japan which is a far better option than the ECT.
India has strongly opposed the awarding of the tender to Sinosar-Etechwin citing security issues. India also participated in the tender but lost out to Sinosar-Etechwin because their offer was not competitive.
Let us take a look at Sri Lanka’s wind farm analysis and site selection assistance done way back in 2003. Global Energy Concepts of Kirkland, Washington conducted the study and the report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the US Government. The best locations identified for wind energy development were Hambantota, Kalpitiya Peninsula, Mannar Islands, Jaffna District and the Ambewela area.
During the Yahapalana regime in 2016 Ravi Karunanayake who was their Minister of Power and Energy announced that a wind power plant was to be set up at Delft Island. Hence the installation of the wind power plant was not something done out of the blue by the Rajapaksa Government; the plans had been there right along and it was just a matter of time prior to their implementation. The other more salient fact is there was no intention by GoSL of jeopardising India’s security either.
When it comes to Sri Lanka and the security of her people here is another point to ponder. India’s Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is located at the southernmost tip of India in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu and is but 50 km away from Sri Lanka. If there ever is a nuclear fallout Sri Lanka will be the first to perish. Did India consider Sri Lanka when constructing it and did Sri Lanka ever lodge a protest the way India is doing now. Nuclear power plant disasters like Three Mile Island in the US, Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, and Fukushima Daiichi in Japan remain clearly etched in our memories, don’t they?
India once again threatened our security by claiming they were planning to enter our election system and once again disrupt our harmony. Though the idea was not feasible the thought does send a frisson of fear down our spines.
One thing is certain, we in Sri Lanka urgently require electrical energy just like India does. We do need to construct the hybrid wind and solar energy project on Delft, Nainativu and Analativu islands to ease the burden.