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Tamil Nadu’s first wind energy plant now lies abandoned

According to reports, twenty-one windmills established in the salt pan village of Mullakadu in Tuticorin district during the 1980s, today stand dilapidated having outlived their life span. However, people in the locality feel that these windmills can be revived or repaired to augment the present energy needs of the state.

Tamil Nadu ranks seventh in respect of gross potential and third in respect of technical potential with regard to wind energy in India. Forty-one potential wind energy generation sites were identified and the  Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) established the first set of demonstration windmills in Mullakadu in January 1986.

“Mullakadu has the highest number of salt pans in Tuticorin and the first 10 mills, which were established in the first phase, stood majestically among them whirling all the time, right from the time of their installation,” said M Chockalingam, state general secretary of the Janata Dal (S), and a former panchayat president of the village.

Later, 11 more mills, each having a capacity to produce 55 KW, were installed, and there was much enthusiasm among the salt producers because they were told they would be provided electricity generated by the windmills at Rs one per unit by the TNEB. However, Chockalingam said they never got to enjoy the power generated by the windmills but had to be content with having them in their midst.

The windmills continued to whirl and generate power till 1996, when one fine day, a wing of one of these huge machines broke and fell in 1997. One after the other, the mills began to stop working. Soon, the office of the TNEB itself was abandoned and when contacted, the officials told the villagers that the windmills had outlived their lives.

“Now, with the power crisis in the state, we are forced to draw the chief minister’s attention to this plant, because she is interested in using non-renewable energy, and power can be generated with minimum investment in this existing plant,” said Chockalingam. He also sent a petition in this regard to the chief minister in May this year. He is yet to receive a reply.

Natarajan, a villager says that even villagers have started realising the importance of sources of power generation due to the power crisis, which is affecting them and are very keen to see if these windmills can start turning again, bringing relief to industries and homes.

Meanwhile, sources at the wind farms department in Tirunelveli, under whom these windmills come, said that all the machines had outlived their lives and that getting spare parts was a problem. Also, the land of the farm was on lease and setting up new machines on this leased land was not feasible.

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