Humans have been using wind power for the last 5,500 years to propel sailing boats and ships. If sailors had not used wind power to propel their boats Christ-opher Columbus would not have discovered America and Ferdinand Magellan would have not sailed round the world. Windmills have been used in our sub-continent since the 7th century for pumping water and milling grains. Wind driven ventilation has been used in building and is visible when one travels by train through lower Sindh between Hyderabad and Karachi. Harnessing wind power to generate electricity is not a new technology. Small wind turbines have been used to light isolated buildings since the early 20th century. Nowadays wind farms are quite common in many countries around the world. Iran which is the second largest oil producing country in Organisation of Oil Producing Countries (OPEC) and has the second largest proven gas reserves in the world has been harnessing wind power to produce electricity. A country which can easily meet its energy demands through oil and gas using power generating plants is the 38th country that produces a portion of its electricity from wind turbines. Iran which had no urgent requirement or need to harness wind power for electricity generation is producing 91MW from this source. Iran realised that its fossil fuel burning power generation plants were also the biggest polluters and they wanted to reduce their pollution level. Iran set up 53 synoptic centres across the country and developed software packages to capture, and analyse the data. The first wind turbine was installed in Iran in 1994 and the project has continued to flourish and expand. Iran has also developed the capacity to manufacture their own wind turbines. Our good friend China stands at number three on this table and is producing over 25,000MW. Turkey stands at number 19 in the countries using wind power for electricity generation and produces 801MW from this source. The Turkish President visited Pakistan recently and a number of MoUs were signed. Turkey will help us in developing our energy sector, but we have not asked them to help us in developing wind power projects. Turkey has the technical know-how, and we should seek their help in this sector. Our neighbour to the East, whether we like them or not, are producing 10,925MW of electricity from wind and stand at number five. These figures are as reported for the year 2009. Pakistan has never earnestly looked at this source of free power. Its only now an attempt is being made to set up wind turbines. Areas in lower Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pukthun-khawa and small pockets in Punjab are suitable for setting up wind turbine farms. We know our gas reserves are fast depleting and we are dependent on oil imports to meet our increasing demands. We also know that the independent power producers are locked in a vicious circle of circular debts and have either closed down or are running on reduced capacity. We know that setting up a nuclear power plant takes years and requires specialised expertise to build and operate. Hydro power projects again take years to construct and the problem of displacement of people becomes a major issue. Also a hydro project cannot generate power forever as silting starts in the reservoir and slowly builds up, an issue that Pakistan is facing right now in Tarbela and Mangla dams. Rather then looking at rental power plants and nuclear power plants to resolve our energy crisis, Pakistan must seriously look at alternative energy sources. A wind turbine farm does not require years to set up and get started. There are a number of companies that manufacture wind turbines and three countries that we have good relations with can easily help us in this sector. The only reason that could be holding Pakistan back from tapping this source would be financing and wind data and the third could be our ignorance. But if the government of Pakistan draws up feasible wind power projects there would be countries and companies that would be ready to invest in these projects. Once area where these farms would be feasible is identified, the government would have to acquire the land. To set up a tower will not need much land and it can still be used for cultivation, after all land has been acquired to set up power transmission lines across the country. If the Pakistan metrological department does not have sufficient data on wind in Pakistan there are international agencies that have it. Cellular phone companies have their network of towers across the country and the government can easily use this tower network to collect wind data and identify areas to set up wind farms. Setting up wind data gathering devises will not be very expensive. After these areas are identified, their potential capacity, types of wind turbines that will be suitable can be easily identified. The entire exercise of collecting this data and identifying suitable areas should not take, on the outside more than two years. Wind data for Pakistan is also available on many internet sites and specific areas which have good wind power for wind turbines have been identified. Test turbines can be installed at these sites. There is enough expertise available in our friendly countries that can help us identify potential places for setting up wind turbine farms. Once a wind farm has been identified and an agreement reached with the equipment provider and operator, it wont take very long to get it operational. We know that asking the American government for a nuclear civil deal similar to the one they have signed with India will never come about. Therefore rather then asking for assistance to help in ending our energy crisis or seeking short-term solutions, we would do better if we were to offer donors like Friends of Democratic Pakistan and other countries that are eager to help us with positive, viable projects. The power from this source will be clean, cheap and will have no adverse impact on the environment. Wind farms can be managed remotely and hooking them up to the national grid should not be an issue. The only issues will be those that afflict any project in Pakistan, and there are a number of them. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email