ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 23, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 43
Financial Times  

Sea-wave power plant soon in Sri Lanka

By Lanelle Hills

While consumers and industries reel under the dark clouds of electricity hikes, the silver lining to this gloomy situation could literally be crashing at our shores.

An Israeli firm in a bid to promote wave power as an alternative energy source has submitted proposals to the Ministry of Power and Energy to construct a unique sea-wave power plant. SDE Energy, a Tel Aviv manufacturing company, is awaiting the official green light to commence the construction of a 10MW sea-wave power plant.

The company will finance the initial investment of US$ 6.5 million to build the plant and if successful it will be the first of its kind in the island with a potential to expand and eventually generate commercial quantities of energy, said SDE Energy - Managing Director, Shmuel Ovadia through an email response. He added that according to the proposals, electricity would be sold to the government over a period of 50 years at a rate of 10 cent (US dollars) per Kw/h.

Secretary, Ministry of Energy, M.M.C Ferdinando called the power plant a “lucrative energy generating process,” when confirming that proposals were received.

“They (proposals) were referred two weeks ago to the Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Authority (SEA) to be considered for approval since it comes under the purview of the sustainable energy act,” he said.

On a mission to help convert developing countries into fully integrated clean energy industries and support renewable programmes the SDE remains unfettered by the ongoing conflict and many allegations that plague the country. “The potential in Sri Lanka is very high, in light of its high waves and the vast need for electricity,” Ovadia said via email. “Throughout the world, many countries are amidst disputes and Sri Lanka is not an exception in this case and we think this will not hinder our project. We will not be deterred from setting up a sea-wave power plant and are very happy to assist in this area.”

Commenting on the SDE proposals, Deputy Director General REA, Harsha Wickremasinghe said SDE’s proposals were the only ones that offered power generation through sea waves when recommendations were called for prior to the formulation of the new electricity tariff. He also said recommendations made in the proposals were factored into the formulation of the new tariff, adding that approval for the project is expected in a month’s time and that “the government would pay the company’s tariff with a 22 percent return on equity.”

On completion of the buy-back period of 50 years, the Sri Lankan government will own the sea-wave power plant, Ovadia said. Once the plant is completed and fully operational the Israeli company also hopes to enter into an agreement to construct additional power plants around the island. In order to fund the projects SDE Energy have already begun approaching donors like the World Bank.

The proposed sea-wave power plant is to be built on one side of wave gatherers, which could also serve as breakers, the plant is weather proof unlike similar systems, and the process uses the motion of the wave to generate hydraulic pressure which is then converted into electricity. The plants are efficient, capable of modulation and storing the energy derived from the waves.

Ovadia said a location has been identified down south, taking into consideration the high waves in the area and the increased demand for electricity that has arisen following the rapid development of tourism along the coast.

He said the construction costs of a 1MW SDE station starts from $650,000 in contrast to the costs incurred for a coal plant which could amount to $1,500,000, or $900,000 for natural gas plant Ovadia said in his email, adding that the expected annual revenue from a 10MW power plant is approx. $3.1million with a net profit of $1.6 million.

Although the company has not set up a working power plant anywhere in the world and would be a first for SDE here if approval is granted, they have however, built eight models of sea-wave power plants with the backing of the Israeli government that’s keen on promoting environmentally friendly, pollution free alternative power. “Our innovative project is the only one in its field that has been approved by the government. A full-scale oceanfront model was operational in Israel and produced 40 KW/h for one year. Our experiments were carried out for a period of two years. The model has been checked and approved by experienced engineers. We have all the knowledge and the experience to establish a sea-wave power plant at any magnitude. Currently, we are in the process of achieving final approvals for a 30MW sea wave power plant in Israel,” Ovadia said in the email.


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