Sri Lanka has the potential for 56GW of offshore wind, according to a new World Bank report, which says the crisis-stricken country could use this natural advantage to rebuild its economy.
The report, issued last week, found that Sri Lanka has the capacity for 27GW of fixed offshore wind in shallow waters, defined as less than 50 meters, and for 29GW of floating offshore wind in deeper waters.
“There are three broad areas suitable for offshore wind development, but the western and southern coasts have the most energetic wind speeds and suitable technical conditions,” it said.
The report excluded areas with the “highest environmental or social sensitivities” from consideration to avoid “unacceptable adverse impacts”.
The report stated that Sri Lanka’s complete reliance on imported hydrocarbon fuels “places a large risk on the security of supply and affordability of the majority of the country’s electricity generation”.
That risk materialised in catastrophic fashion last year when Sri Lanka was plunged into its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948.
The country had been running a trade deficit for years and as such ran short of foreign currency reserves. This meant that the country could no longer buy hydrocarbon fuels from abroad, leading to crippling and prolonged power cuts, while there were also shortages of other basic commodities.
This energy crisis culminated in massive protests and the ransacking of the presidential palace in July last year, forcing ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee to Singapore on a private jet, before resigning.
Following bailouts from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the country is said to be making a gradual recovery, although it is still laden with debt, including $7bn of loans from China.
“Transitioning to renewable energy and thereby reducing fuel imports is expected to be an important action in the country’s recovery,” said the World Bank report.
The World Bank report argued that Sri Lanka’s offshore wind resources “offer an abundant domestic supply of energy and could help improve the country’s energy security.”
The report even suggested Sri Lanka could aspire to selling energy to India, with an electrical interconnector between the neighbours potentially benefitting both countries.
It stated: “With the addition of large-scale offshore wind, Sri Lanka could become an energy exporter.”
Sri Lanka energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera had already said in May that the country was eyeing offshore wind as a key plank of its renewable energy targets.