Malayala Manorama opens Asia’s first wind farm among newspapers - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

In this Sunday Column, George Jacob, executive director at Malayala Manorama shares how the wind energy project will be a big step towards meeting its energy needs

16 Jun 2019 | By Noel D'Cunha

George Jacob, executive director at Malayala Manorama

PrintWeek India (PWI): When and how was the wind energy project born?

George Jacob (GJ): In our newspaper columns, we have been encouraging the government and readers to use alternative energy as applicable. Some readers wrote to us asking whether we were practising what we preached. So, in 2015, we set up three rooftop solar systems at three of our print units totalling 310 kW.  Encouraged by the results, we decided to set up a renewable energy project which would cater to the full energy needs of all the ten plants/offices.

PWI: How did you look at the economic and ecological benefits?

GJ: Over seven to ten years, we will recover the money spent.  Wind was preferred over solar due to the cost of land required and higher plant load factor (PLF).

PWI: On which the land area did you implement the project?

GJ: It's in the Palakkad gap area.

PWI: Right now, how many of MM's print production sites will deploy wind energy?

GJ: The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) will wheel the power to all our plants/offices. It will levy a wheeling charge and a percentage for losses. The energy generation is at Palakkad.

PWI: Who is your energy supplier for the project?

GJ: We have set up the project on our own. The equipment/project implementation was done by Siemens Gamesa India (the Indian subsidiary of the Spanish company).

PWI: How many wind turbines drive MM's manufacturing capability?

GJ: We have five, 2-MW wind turbines totalling  to10-MW.

PWI: What kind of regulatory clearances are required?

GJ: Clearances are required from Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT) for site suitability and the KSEB. However, KSEB is not final but we are told a draft agreement is ready for discussion.

PWI: Will the wind energy project be able to fulfil the requirement of a newspaper print production plant? How are you planning to expand your wind energy generation in the future?

GJ: We estimate 100% of our energy consumption will be fulfilled by this project.  We have three vacant sites available for expansion if needed (6-MW).

PWI: Will some of the wind power electricity be purchased from elsewhere?

GJ: Hopefully, we will not need to buy additional power from elsewhere.

PWI: Is there any difference between the quality and calibre of conventional power and wind power? Is it a reliable and capable source of power for a newspaper production site against conventional sources of energy?  For example, voltage fluctuation?

GJ: Power is power; there will be no difference to the end user. Power produced from the wind energy is pumped into the KSEB grid at the point of generation, where it is not distinguishable. If the power is not of appropriate voltage or frequency, it will not be accepted into the grid. In any case, we will continue to receive power from the KSEB grid if the wind power is not available. This power may consist of either hydel, imported/thermal, wind, solar energy or a mix of all.

PWI: Did you hire experts from outside of your company to implement the project or the internal team was capable enough to manage it?

GJ: The project was implemented by our in-house team with inputs from all the competing vendors and final implementation by Siemens Gamesa India.  Our team made visits to various wind farms and factories of all the vendors.

PWI: In 2014, India was fifth in terms of the total capacity of wind power generation (22,500-MW) after the US, China, Germany and Spain.  India is the country with the highest growth in newspapers.  How do you relate the equation?

GJ: There is no correlation between the growth or decline of newspapers and alternative energy. In the West, the newspaper industry declined while alternative energy production grew.

PWI: Wind resource is the backbone of any wind energy project.  How do you calculate your wind resource?  You have said, you will be 100% consuming solar energy out of your total spend in 2019 – 2020?  How will this work?

GJ: Our project is located in the Palakkad Gap area – a mountain pass in the Western Ghats.  It has been a perennial source of wind till date; many wind farms operate on the Tamil Nadu side of the ghat. Climate change permitting, we hope the same pattern will continue.

PWI: Two years ago, when PrintWeek India visited two of your factories, we realised there is a lot of thought given to energy-efficient lighting to reduce energy consumption.  You had unified the lighting standards and replaced indoor lighting with energy efficient plus usage of exterior halogen lights.  How has this helped?


For years we have been conscious of our growing energy bills. The first issue to be tackled was power factor improvement; around 15-20 years ago, equipment was a significant power load. We also have voltage improvement systems for the grid supply.  Next was an appropriate cable choice to reduce voltage drops. Lighting was next on the list – from incandescent lamps to tube lights to halogen and now LED's, the energy saving potential continues.  

We use heat pumps to heat water up to 75 degrees using the ambient heat in the air before the water is converted into steam for cooking with electricity. We are looking at regenerative heating to utilise the waste heat in the exhaust of our heatset presses.

It’s simple math, a rupee saved is a rupee gained.

PWI: PrintWeek India was told about how MM monitors machinery for being overworked or requiring maintenance, or when a distribution wiring needs re-routing. Plus power usage and whether it was billed correctly. What is the system you follow?

GJ: Worn-out machinery increases power consumption. We did an audit of some of our plants using IFRA India services with a German consultant. This may become a yearly feature. Distribution wiring, switches have to be audited regularly as loose connections can cause arcing/sparking and are a fire hazard in addition to energy losses. Regular audits are a must.


In the IRS Q1 2019 survey report, Malayala Manorama was at the fourth spot among the Top 20 Dailies on the basis of Average Issue Readership (AIR); and at the top in the regional segment with 97.58-lakh AIR