Bright Future for Wind Energy in Nepal

“I have seen a bright future for wind energy in Nepal, because a lot of wind energy potential has been predicted,” says Aruna Awale, manager of the wind energy department at the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal.

From the window of her office, she can see one of the few operating wind turbines in Nepal. It is a small Maglev vertical access turbine. It turns rapidly in the wind that blows through the Kathmandu valley. It is a sign of more to come if Ms. Awale has anything to do with it.

Ms. Awale works on data and implementation projects, co-ordinates meetings and conferences, and meets with national and international stakeholders. She credits her work for giving her more confidence and a huge amount of experience. She especially enjoys the opportunity to travel internationally for different seminars, the highlight of which is often a visit to a wind farm.

Nepal faces several problems to implement large-scale wind energy, but interestingly, one of those isn’t finance with many development banks, institutions, or companies ready to step forward.  Instead Ms Awale mentions the complex geography and the insufficient infrastructure as the main challenge. The small roads, or entire lack thereof, are often not suited for carrying large equipment to high windy points. The spectacular but difficult geography makes studies and installations more difficult. In order to fully grow in this energy sector, this challenge will have to be surmounted.

Perhaps suggest Ms. Awale, one way to do that is to start smaller. Citing a recent implemented pilot project by the Asian Development Bank, Ms. Awale remains confident that wind energy will have a great impact on small communities in Nepal. In the Dhaubadi BDC of Nawalparasi District, 46 households are now connected to electricity by a small wind turbine. This hastransformed the village and made it the envy of neighbouring villages: now everyone wants a wind turbine.

“With small scale wind energy, thousands of villages can benefit from wind power where no energy is available, not even for lights.” says Ms. Awale.

Ms. Awale has been working at the AEPC for almost a decade and hopes to see some of the available 3000MW potential in Nepal developed, recognizing that it will change the life of many of her fellow Nepalis . For many a Nepali, the answer to electricity problems and the attached poverty issues may simply be blowing in the wind.

This blog post is part 8 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden. Next week meet Jaap van der Beek, Netherlands farmer who harvests wind amongst his tulips. 

Wind Dreams in Nepal

Amrit points it out as we zoom past on his motorbike.  If you look closely, past the Nokia sign, past the other motorbikes, over the jumble of electric wires, and let your eyes drift upward, you might see it. It is a solution to the energy problems of Nepal, turning in the wind. Amrit turns a corner, jokes with a security guard and drives into the grounds of the Kathmandu Engineering College. A few minutes later we are on the roof, listening to the whirling of his homemade wind turbine and looking out over this crowded and noisy city called Kathmandu.

Amrit Singh Thapa, owner of Eenergys.com, lives and breathes wind energy. When he was still a student at the Engineering College, he began researching sustainable technology and felt deeply that his path was entwined with wind energy. He hasn’t looked back since.

“My life has been changed drastically since I got involved in wind energy. I don’t have time to sleep. My experience is very small, but there is no one with my experience in Nepal. That is the main factor; from the management, technical, ground, and field level, I have to manage and tackle everything. I am working as the complete package.”

Kathmandu is in the midst of an energy crisis. The Himalayas provide ample opportunity to tap hydro resources, but current supply is insufficient for the entire electrical needs of the city and in winter, when the reservoirs are low or landslides fill the reservoirs, hydro capacity is compromised. “In the summer we have 3 – 4 hours a day of load shedding” says Amrit, using the all-too-common term for a government scheduled black-out of city regions. “In the winter it will be even higher, in 24 hours we will only get 18 hours of electricity. This is the past record of maybe 4 years.”

Amrit dreams one day of seeing turbines on the hills surrounding the Kathmandu valley. He believes that wind energy is the solution to the energy crisis in Nepal. His calculations show that it is feasible and he cites the build time difference between wind and hydro as an additional plus. “Kathmandu has a daily demand for 200MW. Around the Kathmandu Valley we can take 70 – 100 MW from the wind energy. We can make in one year a big energy project, and you can’t do that with hydro power,” says Amrit.

The only thing holding wind energy back is proof to the Nepal business, government and people that the technology can work and be sustained. If Amrit can do that, and he thinks he can, then the money will flow and the technology will be replicated across the country. “I think that it only takes one or two years to make a big windmill project in Nepal. I am quite optimistic. I hope that I can make it, and I can show that Nepal can also generate wind energy.”

As Amrit and I climb down from the roof, his story reminds me that one person can make a difference. If he has his way, this energetic young man’s vision and passion for wind could be the difference for Nepal’s energy problem.

For more information about Amrit’s work, visit http://eenergys.com/

This blog post is part 3 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden. Next week meet the De Clerck family, a farming family in the Netherlands that enthusiastically cooperatively harvest wind energy.

Climate Oxide project acknowledged in Dutch Newspaper

The project I am working on with Dutch/Nepali artist Shiva Rimal, Climate Oxide, was recently mentioned in Weesper Nieuws (a local dutch newspaper). This project is a focus on climate change and identity in Nepal, Canada and the Netherlands. Marieke van Veen wrote a beautiful story on Climate Oxide & Shiva Rimal in a page long interview. This interview is in Dutch, for those interested, click on the image below or click here to go to the pdf file to read the full story.

climate oxide in weesper nieuws

Guest Post – Moving Planet in Nepal

This guest post is cross-posted from 350.org and written by Anna Keenan detailing our recent experience in Nepal.

I spend most of my time working as a climate campaigner for Greenpeace International in Amsterdam, however for the 2011 global day of climate action – Moving our Planet beyond fossil fuels – I have somehow ended up in Kathmandu, Nepal, with climate-activist photographer Robert van Waarden. I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to write about what “Moving Planet” has been like in this magical (and slightly crazy) city of contrasts!

Today, there was not just one, but three major events in the Kathmandu area.

Moving Planet action in Nepal

First – we were up at 5am to make it on the bus to Dulikhel with Small Earth Nepal, a wonderful organization who are working on many aspects of sustainability – from awareness-raising, to scientific methodological training, to promoting biogas in rural villages. Today, 100 people hiked from Dhulikhel to Namo-buddha Monastery – where over 350 young monks are living and learning Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. The monks led our group in a meditation on a Zero-Carbon Future.

Aside from philosophical leadership, these monks are also into practical action. One of the many interesting initiatives at the monastery is the on-site production of heating briquettes from the monastery’s paper waste and agricultural waste. These carbon-neutral briquettes are burnt in place of firewood (which is in short supply) to keep the monastery buildings warm in winter – and because the briquettes burn without smoke, they also improve air quality.

The second event Nepalese Youth for Climate Action, along with Kathmandu Cycle City 2020, organised a cycle rally with over 120 keen young cyclists participated! In Kathmandu, every intersection is a chaotic, noisy blur of pedestrians, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, taxis, trucks, as well as chickens, dogs and cows, all competing for space. The diesel fumes choke the city and many residents suffer from allergies or skin reactions. Cycling is not only good for the global climate – it could be a great solution to the local air-quality problem, and with no fuel costs, it is affordable – a big concern for most residents! However, the traffic chaos makes cycling a dangerous choice for anyone trying to ‘do the right thing’. Today’s cycle rally promotes the goal of Kathmandu being cycle-friendly within the decade – these young people are campaigning for cycle lanes so that more people can choose to cycle, in safety.

The third event was a fully solar-powered screening of short eco-films from around Nepal, run by Story Cycle. The solar panels charged the batteries during the day, and when the sun set on Patan’s Durbar Square, that renewable energy powered (despite rainy conditions!) a screening of 15 short films, made by young people, about local eco-issues in Nepal and South Asia.

These three events are just the tip of the iceberg (or should I say instead ‘just the edge of a great Himalyan glacier’?) of the Nepali sustainability initiatives that we have had the pleasure of learning about over the last few weeks. With so many different types of climate action happening in one place, and so many inspiring, intelligent young people on the case, a sustainable future for Nepal is looking more likely every moment.

Up Up and Away – Nepal

Tommorrow I leave for Nepal.

Nepali/Dutch artist Shiva Rimal and I are off to work on our collaborative art project Climate Oxide. It is a documentation of climate change impacts around the world using photography, steel and rust. We will visit various climate adaptation projects, trek in the Himalayas and take part in the Moving Planet action in Kathmandu on September 24.

About the Project

Robert van Waarden and Shiva Rimal create items of visual art using the mediums of photography, steel, and rust. Their current project, Climate Oxide, uses this art form to symbolize how climate change is impacting our world. Reflecting on their heritage, Nepali and Canadian born artists with Dutch nationality, they will personalize the climate issue to the viewer by visualizing the impacts on their individual environments.

The combination of this aesthetic art form and story is unique and is interesting for a wide audience. Publications and galleries/outlets are invited to contact the artists for more information and to explore opportunities to display the resulting body of work.

Stay tuned for more. I will return in the first week of October.