Fighting Energy Crisis with Renewable Energy

Today we are facing acute energy shortages, resulting in power shading from 4 to 10 hours every day at different locations in India. Building new power generating plants is part of a long term planning depending on fossil fuel availability. This is high time, we must work out solutions over energy crisis with additional advantages if possible.

The average per capita consumption of energy in India is around 500 units per annum. In spite of high rate of development these figures are very low, compared to developed countries. (Middle East 10,000+, USA 8000+, Europe, Australia, Japan etc 4000+) .In our country major contribution to electrical energy generation is by coal and oil based power generation plants, followed by hydro and nuclear power generating stations. All these power generating plants (except hydro and nuclear) have contribution to CO2 emissions and global warming effects.

Many experts believe that by 2015 the supply of oil & natural gas will be unable to keep up with demand, or oil and natural gas production would be at peak by 2015. By that time the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will need large quantities of oil, especially because of fast growth of the Indian and Chinese economies. Crude oil Price might shoot to the $150 per barrel level and higher. The impact on our import bill and balance of payment will be very serious.

Coal: Coal has a similar story, but may last for a longer period of time. India has extractable reserves of 52 billion tones. Annual production now is 407 million tones and the rate of growth of production is going to be very high. The Government of India predicts complete depletion of coal in 40 years. The key factor is not depletion but peaking of production which is expected by 2015 in India. A recent study predicts global peaking of production of coal by 2025. The use of coal in power industry contributes sizable amount of CO2 emissions and fly ash pollution within few kilometers around the power plant.

As per Indian Atomic Energy Chairman’s opinion, our uranium reserves would be adequate only for meeting 10,000 MW of Nuclear power capacity for next 30 years. New Uranium mining sites in the north-east are facing stiff resistance from the local people. India has vast reserves of Thorium, but Thorium based reactors are yet to be installed and proven. In addition, due to the safety problem of nuclear plants (Chernobyl incident), nuclear power is always controversial. Countries like Germany plan to decommission all of their nuclear plants by 2025 and replace them with Renewable Energy generations.

For India, new initiatives are being formalized to obtain nuclear fuel and new reactor technology with three major collaborating countries: France, Russia and USA. The Government of India sees a mix of power sources for the foreseeable future, until renewable energy comes of age.

The consumption of electricity is growing on the worldwide basis. Energy is a necessity and clean renewable energy is an obligation to the earth and our future. Due to industrial revolution ‘CO2 emission and Global Warming’ have become serious global issues. Most of the countries’ governments have set targets to reduce CO2 emission in order to prevent global warming further. A transition from conventional energy systems to those based on renewable resources is necessary to meet the ever-increasing demand for energy and to address environmental concerns.

Renewable Energy produces electricity from environmentally friendly sources. These energy generations are with almost zero CO2 emissions and negligible pollution.

The Sun is the source of almost all forms of energy including fossil, hydro-electric, wind and solar energy. India is blessed with an abundance of sunlight, water and biomass.

Although we are currently dependant on fossil fuels, sunlight itself is a tremendous source of energy which is largely remained untapped. ‘There is enough potential energy in just one hour of ‘SUNLIGHT’ to power the electrical needs of the entire world for a full year.’ Now imagine if we could harness this inexhaustible source of energy. Solar energy is also a clean source with no emissions. One solar water heater can reduce global warming gas emissions equivalent to one automobile. With the recent developments in technology, solar energy systems are scalable for large and small uses, and they require minimum maintenance. Most importantly, with government tax incentives and rebates, solar energy could be made financially viable. Hence it is time to start adopting solar energy systems.

We are seeing now days Solar energy is being used for heating of water. And at some places solar street lights are being used. A few projects large size community kitchens and industrial heating applications also have cropped up recently.

Solar electricity is generation of electricity from the power of the Sun, via photovoltaic cells (pv). This is altogether different from the solar water heating, where the water passes through panels to be heated directly, and no electricity is generated.

Photovoltaic cells are made from silicon. When particles of sunlight (photons) fall on cells, there is direct conversion to a usable electric current.

As an average 100 to 130 watts energy is generated from one square meter of the solar panel. Now a days estimated life of the Solar Panel is more than 20 years and needs very simple maintenance like weekly surface cleaning. A battery pack with controller is necessary for storing generated energy. The stored energy can be used as and when required, through inverter. An exclusive solar generation system of capacity of 250 to KWH units per month would cost around Rs. 5 Lacs, with present pricing and taxes.

Most of the developed countries are switching over to solar energy as one of the prime renewable energy source. Latest trend of Architecture keep provision of Photovoltaic cells and necessary circuitry while making building plans.

Wind energy was initially used to propel ships. Later windmills were used for water pumping, grain grinding , etc. At the end of the 19th century small scale power generating units were set up in USA with windmill application.

Serious interest in wind energy development came after the first oil shortage and price shock in 1973. Today wind turbines are making a major contribution to the production of renewable energy. Developments in harnessing wind power continually improved, and during the last decade a sizeable growth has happened in the wind energy industry. Wind Turbines have become larger, efficiencies and availabilities have improved and wind farm concept has become popular. Wind power is one of the most efficient alternative energy sources. It could be combined with solar, especially for a total self-sustainability project. The two systems (solar/wind) seem to be complimentary with each other.

The economics of wind energy is already strong, despite the relative immaturity of the industry. The downward trend in wind energy costs is predicted to continue. As the world market in wind turbines continues to boom, wind turbine prices will continue to fall. India now ranks as a “wind superpower” having a net potential of about 45000 MW only from 13 identified states.

Theoretically speaking, India has a huge hydro power potential, out of which around 20% has been realized so far. New hydro projects are facing serious resistance from environmentalists. Resettlement of the displaced people with their lands becomes major issue. With change in environment, the run-off in rivers is also decreasing year by year.

Biomass is organic matter produced by all livings on the earth. Also it refers to other organic wastes like animal waste, food-processing by-products etc. Everything that is biodegradable is biomass. The solar energy trapped in the biomass can be converted in to fuel or electricity.

Burning wood to heat or cook is one of the least efficient ways to use bio-energy. Still it is the most important energy source for some three billion people in the world. However there are better ways to use biomass. In 2005 burning wood alone produced more energy than all nuclear power plants put together. Woody biomass could be major and reliable renewable energy source if proper management of vegetation is ensured. The most efficient way of using biomass is gasification.
Biomass power is the largest source of renewable energy as well as a vital part of the waste management infrastructure.

The United States of America is currently producing 7800 MW of power only from biomass, having more than half of the world’s installed capacity of Biomass energy.
Dedicated energy crops are another source of woody biomass for energy. These crops are fast-growing plants, trees or other herbaceous biomass which are harvested specifically for energy production. Rapidly-growing, pest-tolerant, site and soil-specific crops have been identified and are developed by making use of bioengineering.

Biomass can play a major role in reducing the reliance on fossil fuels by making use of thermo-chemical conversion technologies. In addition, the increased utilization of biomass-based fuels will be instrumental in safeguarding the environment, creating new job opportunities, sustainable development and health improvements in rural areas. Biomass energy could also aid in modernizing the agricultural economy. A large amount of energy is expended in the cultivation and processing of crops like sugarcane, food grains, vegetables and fruits which can be recovered by utilizing energy-rich residues for energy production. The integration of biomass-fuelled gasifies and coal-fired energy generation would be advantageous in terms of improved flexibility in response to fluctuations in biomass availability with lower investment costs.

Bio-Diesel is extracted from specific quality oil seeds. Plantation of such oil seeds generally assumed on waste lands. This could be good solution as substitute for oil. However a few advanced countries’ governments are not encouraging this bio-diesel oils seed cultivations because threat to reduction in Agricultural Food crops production.

Ethanol is one of the successful by-product of agro industry, identified to promote in transportation industry.Latest development and pilot plant trials have shown ‘ALGAE’ as good source of bio fuel, which gives many times higher yield of bio-oil compared to any oilseeds. However results of commercial scale production are awaited.

Waste-to-energy plants offer two important benefits of environmentally safe waste management and disposal, as well as the generation of clean electric power. Waste-to-energy facilities produce clean, renewable energy through thermochemical, biochemical and physicochemical methods. The growing use of waste-to-energy as a method to dispose off solid and liquid wastes and generate power has greatly reduced environmental impacts of municipal solid waste management, including emissions of greenhouse gases. The greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced by preventing methane emissions from landfills. Moreover, waste-to-energy plants are highly efficient in harnessing the untapped sources of energy from a variety of wastes. An environmentally sound and techno-economically viable methodology to treat biodegradable waste is highly crucial for the sustainability of modern societies. Waste to energy plants would be feasible, when there is consistent and sizable amount of waste generation on daily basis. Especially municipal councils can take benefit of this technology, which may ease challenges of waste disposal.

The growth of the bio-energy industry can also be achieved by laying more stress on green power marketing. Recently there are a few successful demonstrations abroad for Tidal energy generation from sea / ocean waves. However, due to limited amount of energy generation, tidal may not be appealing for commercial electricity generation.

Microgeneration, also called “micropower”, is the generation of zero or low-carbon electrical power by individuals, small businesses and communities to meet their own needs. The most widely-used microgeneration technologies include small wind turbines, solar power photovoltaic or biomass conversion systems that have been promoted for decades as alternative sources of renewable energy. What is new, is the potential for micropower to move out of the alternative scene and be taken up on a wider, societal level, thus making a noticeable impact on energy policy. Because of technological advances, microgeneration now includes handheld solar and wind-power recharging devices for personal electronics, as well as advanced photovoltaic, biomass and wind-turbine systems to power homes and factories.

Traditional “megapower” production of electricity is insufficient today because of exponential industrial growth and improved life style. Traditional power stations are located far from the point-of-use, and the consumer doesn’t know more than using the electricity and paying the electricity bills.

A recent study shows that microgeneration actually acts as a catalyst for cultural changes in consumer attitude, and provides evidence of the important impact that microgeneration has on consumers’ attitudes and behaviors regarding energy production and use. Microgeneration is both a serious form of clean energy production and also a cultural movement that is gathering momentum worldwide. Microgeneration technologies include small wind turbines, biomass gasifires, solar power, micro-hydro, may be with any combinations etc.

‘Companies in renewable energy business today are growing as fast as Microsoft did in the 80’s!’ .Developed countries from Europe, USA, Australia, Japan, China and many others have laid down intensive planning and actions to use renewable energy resources to great extent. For example USA has announced massive renewable energy program, to generate large share of total energy requirement from renewable energy sources by 2025, which will create 5 million new job opportunities in various areas of Renewable Energy.

Explore possibility to make our own power house, by means of solar , wind , biomass etc. with whatever feasible renewable energy source. Determine to use government / utility company electricity supply, only incase of emergency or unavoidable circumstances. Prima-facie renewable energy may appear a bit costlier than the conventional source of energy, but looking at the benefit of continuous power availability and great contribution against global warming, it is worth. We will not only save money on our electricity bills by generating our own electricity, but it will also significantly increase the value of our property.


Ravi Soparkar is Electrical Engineer from Mumbai .Add: Soparkar House, 36/2 Kondhwa Budruk, Pune 411048. 020 26934300, 9325014999

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