It's a daylight butchering of Mother Earth in Attappadi. Heads of towering hills are being chopped to install windmills in this ecological hotspot and the largest tribal habitat in the state. Over 20-metre wide roads, posing threat to remaining trees in the area, are being constructed from the foothills to their top to transport windmill units weighing 80-100 tonnes each by giant Volvo trucks.
The green tag attached to windmills exempt them from environmental clearance which leads to mindless destruction of nature with impunity.
Already several acres have been levelled and for the construction of roads on the top of 20 hills. At many locations the boundary of sites touches with that of the forest land. Given the position of jendas (forest boundary stones) it looks like that the forest land boundary has "receded" to accommodate sites for windmills.
The roads to the hilltops are being constructed right through Adivasi properties and even their burial grounds which are sacred to them, have not been spared. The present target is to set up 31 windmills of 600KW each with a total capacity of 18.6MW in Attappadi.
It is ‘estimated' that the capacity could be raised to 350MW if the forest is opened to the `green' project and the pressure is on the Forest Department. Indicating what's in store for Attappadi, several streams in the area have gone dry.
Experts say that windmills are not an alternative for the conventional sources like thermal and hydel power. Since windmill depends on wind speed, there's a wide fluctuation in the generation. For instance, if a 1MW thermal unit generates seven million units in a year, a wind farm of equal capacity can generate only 15-20 percent (1.4 million units) of it.
The power being generated by the installed ten units of the proposed 31 windmills in Attappadi lend credence to this argument.
The generation record maintained by the KSEB sub-station at Mannarkkad shows that 24-hour combined generation of 10 machines varied from 65,300 units to 8,300 units.
To cap it all, in Attappadi the windmills are installed in remote locations. For shifting the power generated by them, a 14.5-km overhead line has been laid to link the windmills and the KSEB's Agali 33KV sub-station.
Once the windmill becomes idle owing to low wind speed it needs external power supply to start the rotation again. For this, the windmills depend on the KSEB. At a time when the board faces severe power shortage, how the KSEB can maintain uninterrupted supply to the windmills.
The wind farm is a project of the Union Ministry of Non-conventional Energy. Anert is the nodal agency for the project in Kerala.
Pramod, a scientist at the Anert, who is in-charge of the project, told this paper that Suzlon Energy Ltd (developers in technical parlance) had given the NOC to install the wind farms in Attappadi. The firm would sell the windmills to private investors.
The investors who own the units would operate them and the KSEB would purchase the power at Rs 3.14 for a unit. Until two weeks ago, 10 windmills were completed. Of these, the Bhima Brothers, the Poppy Umbrella (both Alappuzha) own two each while the Asian Star Company of Mumbai own four machines. The Kerala Steel Associates and the OEN India, both Kochi firms, have invested in one machine each.
Despite these odds, the businessmen are investing in the project because it is a tax heaven for them. In Attappadi, a unit (1.2 acres of land and a 650 kw machine) costs Rs 3.80 crore and on an average it generates power worth Rs 60 lakh in a year. The investment on windmills yield 100 percent depreciation in tax benefit from the second year of the investment.
It means from the second year, the investment will be included in expenditure. As a result, in the balance sheet the unit will be in loss. This exempts the units from paying Income Tax. Apart from this, the investor is entitled for other bunch of incentives like the carbon credit.