Sri Lanka’s electricity demand is currently met by nine thermal power stations, fifteen large hydroelectric power stations, and fifteen wind farms, with a smaller share from small hydro facilities and other renewables such as solar. Most hydroelectric and thermal/fossil fuel–based power stations in the country are owned and/or operated by the government via the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), while the renewable energy sector consists mostly of privately run plants operating with a power purchase agreement with the CEB.
Per CEB’s 2014 generation report, the country had a total combined installed generation capacity of 3,932 megawatts (MW), of which 2,115 MW (53.8%) was from thermal (900 MW/22.9% from coal and 1,215 MW/30.9% from fuel oil), 1,665 MW (42.3%) from hydroelectricity, and the remaining 152 MW (3.9%) from other renewable sources such as small hydro, wind, biomass, and solar. These generation sources produced a total of 12,357 GWh of electricity during that year, of which 7,508 GWh (60.8%), 4,534 GWh (36.7%), and 315 GWh (2.5%) was from thermal, hydro, and other renewables, respectively.
Sri Lanka’s wind power sector saw activity as early as 1988, when studies were conducted to build a pilot wind project in the Southern Province. More than a decade later, the state-owned 3 MW Hambantota Wind Farm was commissioned. The industry stayed dormant till 2003, when the National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted further wind power studies in the island, before which the industry went into dormancy for a further seven years.
Unlike the other industries, Sri Lanka’s wind energy industry witnessed a sudden boom in 2010, with the commissioning of the Mampuri Wind Farms, the first private-sector wind project in the country’s history. It then suddenly crashed over the following four years after numerous scandals and hidden political dealings surfaced, involving key governing bodies such as the Sustainable Energy Authority and Ceylon Electricity Board, along with a number of senior individuals.
The last privately owned first-come, first-served style wind farm projects, the Pollupalai and Vallimunai Wind Farms, were completed in late 2014, by when the construction of new privately owned wind farms were suspended until further notice by presidential order.
The largest private-sector beneficiaries of the “wind power boom” are Windforce and Senok, which currently own seven and three separate wind farms respectively, of the total of 14 privately owned wind farms in operation as at 2015. The other companies in the market include the semi-private LTL Holdings, Aitken Spence, and Willwind, which are currently operating four wind farms in total.