Curtin Sarawak exploring wind energy as potential energy source for Malaysia

by Associate Professor Dr. Chinnasamy Palanichamy

According to the International Energy Agency (2015), the role of renewable sources in the global power mix continues to increase rapidly. Globally, renewable generation is estimated to rise to 25% of gross power generation in 2018, up from 20% in 2011 as deployment spreads out globally.

Solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, bio energy and ocean power are sources of renewable energy. According to Kable Intelligence Limited (2014), wind is the second most widely used renewable source after hydropower, as global wind power installed capacity exceeded 370GW in 2014. The annual growth rate of cumulative wind power capacity has averaged 25% during the last five years, making wind the fastest growing renewable power source, a trend projected to continue in the future.

Several  countries  have  recognised  that  present-day energy sources are not sustainable and that a better balance must  be  found  between  energy  security,  economic development and protection of the environment.

Malaysia has many renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, hydro, geothermal and tidal wave power. However, they are not yet widely developed and only meagre data are available, particularly concerning wind energy, for analysis by universities and research institutions.

The Meteorological Department has been recording wind data at various stations, particularly around airports, at a height of approximately 10 meters. Though not all areas in Malaysia are suitable for wind energy, the general assumption is that some locations have good potential for wind power generation.

Researchers at Curtin Sarawak have begun to explore the potential of wind energy in Malaysia, carrying out active research on new technologies such as the Venturi effect to harness wind energy. In 2014, they presented and published two research papers on this new concept.

According to Associate Professor Dr. Chinnasamy Palanichamy of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Curtin Sarawak’s Faculty of Engineering and Science, the university has applied to secure funding support from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) Science to conduct a more intensive research programme into renewable energy systems. The research aims to provide a remedial solution to the energy sustainability and environmental protection of Malaysia through cost-effective renewable energy systems.

The proposed research project will consider Malaysia’s energy sector and the momentous challenges that restrict its sustainability. There is a common belief that countries such as Malaysia, located in low wind lassitude with dominant droning weather, cannot harness wind for viable energy production.

The project will explore the authenticity of such credence and present a novel approach to assess the techno-economic potential of wind energy in Malaysia, as well as providing wind resource data for referencing and practice by computational methods and field measurements.

To successfully harness wind energy, the wind-speed and its annual distribution, air-density factor, land cost and public opinion on wind energy are major factors to be ascertained. As Malaysia’s mean annual wind speed is low at no more than 2 m/s, wind energy has not been successfully harnessed since most of the wind turbines commercially available require a minimum cut-in speed of 4 m/s for electrical energy generation.

An effective way of increasing the wind speed is by employing the Venturi effect principle [SheerWind Technology]. The Venturi effect is similar to a jet effect, much like the effect when the thumb is placed at the end of a garden hose with the water turned on.

A new wind harnessing technology based on the Venturi effect will be developed by computer simulation and experimental means. The new harnessing technology increases the wind velocity. This leads to an increase in the power output of the wind turbine, which is proportional to the cube of the wind velocity.

An efficient, economical and environmental friendly wind turbine prototype to harness wind for electrical energy production will be developed. The development of a high-speed electric generator with multi-blade turbine (or double rotor) with gearless (direct-drive) turbine-generator coupling mechanism will follow. The prototype is intended to be a reference model for energy planners and renewable energy investors.

The outcome of the research will show that there is indeed potential in wind energy as an energy source in Malaysia and slow wind turbines are highly suited for Malaysian wind conditions.

The capital investment would be around 60 percent of employing a commercial slow wind turbine with the same life expectancy, but with better power generating capacity. This cost-effective and environmental-friendly new wind energy conversion technology could be very attractive for national and international investors, in addition to earning environmental credits.

Though the wind speed in Malaysia may be low, which is beyond our control, energy harnessing technology could be suitably adjusted to meet our energy targets.

Dr. Chinnasamy Palanichamy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of Curtin Sarawak’s Faculty of Engineering and Science. His areas of interest include economic operation of power and energy systems; electrical building services and building automation; renewable sources of energy; energy conservation and environmental impacts; and development of application packages in power and energy systems.

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