India's renewable future

It is not just the developed nations that are increasing their use of renewable energy, one of the fastest growing regions is India.

With India's power needs projected to reach over 240,000MW by 2012 - an increase of about 20,000MW per year - it has become critically important to exploit other energy sources. As much as 18 per cent of the additional grid interactive renewable power capacity that was commissioned during the first three years of the Tenth plan came from renewables.

The estimated potential in India for generation of power from wind, small hydro, and biomass is around 80,000MW. Renewable power capacity is likely to double every five years or so in the future. By 2012 around 20,000MW, which is 10 per cent of the then installed capacity would be contributed by renewables. Sources estimate that about $7.5bn have so far been invested in the renewable power sector in India. About 90 per cent of the investment has come from the private sector.

At Dhule, Maharashtra, Suzlon Energy is building one of the world's largest wind farms with a capacity of 1,000MW. For Indian businesses, investing in clean, green technologies can give unexpected business benefits in the shape of new revenue lines such as carbon trading. To encourage renewable energy the Indian government provides various incentives, which could include central or state financial assistance, accelerated depreciation, relief in customs duty, excise duty and sales tax. In addition to this, government policies covering wheeling, banking, buy-back and third party sale of power encourage the use of non-conventional energy sources.

The RE (renewable energy) industry in India can be broadly categorised into solar, wind, biomass, urban wastes, small hydro sectors and biofuels.

India receives solar energy equivalent of over 5,000trKWhr/yr, which is far more than the total energy consumption of the country. The daily average solar energy intake varies from 4-7KWhr/m2 depending upon the location. Only a fraction of the aggregate potential in solar energy is being used. Processed raw material for solar cells, large capacity photovoltaic modules, film solar cells, photovoltaic roof tiles, inverters and charge controllers all have a good potential.

India produces 540 million tonnes of crop and plantation residues every year, a large portion of which is either wasted or used inefficiently. Estimates show that even with the present use of these residues and by using only the surplus biomass materials, estimated at 150 million tonnes, about 17,000MW of distributed power could be generated, which is almost 15 per cent of existing installed power capacity.

When it comes to energy from waste, the rising piles of rubbish in urban and industrial areas represent another source of non-conventional energy. Good potential exists for generating around 15,000MW of power from urban and municipal wastes and around 100MW from industrial wastes in India.

Biofuels

The first large Jatropha planta-tions in India are expected to start bearing fruit next year. At a 20 per cent blending by 2012, biofuels could meet 16 million tonnes of diesel demand, reducing petrol and diesel use by 20 per cent. India has 63 million hectares of wasteland alone, and about half of this can be used to plant Jatropha.

With an installed capacity of around 5,500MW of wind power, India is only behind Germany. Southern states of Tamilnadu, coastal Maharashtra, the hills of Karnataka and parts of Gujarat are all potentially good sites to locate wind farms. At Dhule in Maharashtra, Suzlon's proposed 1,000MW wind farm is touted to be among the biggest.

Suzlon Energy founder Tulsi Tanti indicated that about 17 billion units of power have been fed to various state grids from wind power projects in 2006. More than 80 per cent of the power thus generated has been used for captive consumption, and the rest sold.

Demand for wind turbines has particularly accelerated in India, where installations rose nearly 48 per cent last year. India has been particularly blessed with wind energy - the potential is 65,000MW, which is half of India's present total installed capacity. With several states announcing wind friendly policies, more and more companies are getting into the sector. Data and information, traditionally difficult to come by in the Indian context, is also available in the wind sector.

Winds in India are influenced by the strong south-west summer monsoon, which starts in May-June, when cool humid air moves towards the land and the weaker north-east winter monsoon, which starts in October, with cool, dry air moves towards the ocean. Between March and August, the winds are strong over the Indian peninsula, except the eastern peninsular coast. However, users are able to reduce fossil fuel-based environmental damage for eight months in a year.

As India improves its load-forecasting and wind-forecasting capabilities, better grid management will become possible allowing better use of cleaner energies like wind. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are prime destinations for wind energy. New projects are filtering in West Bengal and Lakshwadeep states. While Tamilnadu accounts for the largest installed capacity in India.

Although India has made considerable progress in wind power, the country has not been successful in keeping pace with the rest of the world in other forms of renewables, despite a large deficit in power and ample renewable resource availability. The challenge is to mainstream renewable-based power generation in terms of reliability, quality and cost. India is generously endowed with RE resources like solar, wind, biomass materials, urban and industrial wastes and small hydro resources.

New Technology

Areva is focused on CO2 free technologies based on biomass power systems, biogas, mine gas, lean gas power systems, waste heat recovery power systems and offers turnkey solutions for project implementation along with CDM (clean development mechanism) engineering. The Indian unit is a worldwide competency centre for biomass combustion and waste heat recovery with full competency to deliver turnkey installations engineered and manufactured locally. On the other hand, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has taken up five programmes on various new technologies: hydrogen energy; chemical sources of energy; alternative fuels for surface transportation; geo thermal energy; and tidal energy.

Hydrogen is a clean fuel and an energy carrier that can be used for a broad range of applications as a possible substitute to fossil fuels. The application of hydrogen in fuel cells for power generation has been demonstrated as a result of initiatives taken by MNRE. Hydrogen-fuelled small power-generating sets, two wheeler, three wheeler and catalytic combustion systems for residential and industrial sectors have also been developed and demonstrated. Reactors have been set up for hydrogen production from biological methods.

The main objective of the chemical sources of energy programme is the development and application of fuel cell technology that produces power, water and heat through reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. The fuel cells technology offers high conversion efficiency, modularity, compactness and noise-free operations.

Prototypes of polymer electrolyte membrane or proton exchange membrane fuel cells and phosphoric acid fuel cells have been developed in KW size in India. The applications of these prototypes have been demonstrated for power generation and transport sectors. Efforts are expected to lead to the indigenous production and wider applications of fuel cell systems in India.

This programme focuses on development and demonstration of fuel cells, which produce power, water and heat through reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Renewable energy sources and nuclear energy can also be used for production of hydrogen. Fuel cells are emerging as power sources for cars. A 10KW PEMFC (proton exchange membrane fuel cells) has been used in prototype vehicles developed in India, in addition to a battery bank. Efforts are being made to develop indigenous technology for production of fuel cells in India. The widespread use of fuel cells for power generation, transport and other applications is expected to reduce dependence on scarce fossil fuels and help in preserving the environment.

The objective of the tidal energy programme is to study the potential of tidal energy in India and harness it for power generation. Some potential sites for tapping tidal energy are in the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat, and the Delta of the Ganga in the Sunderbans region in West Bengal. A detailed project report for setting up of a 3.65MW tidal power project at Durgaduani, Sunderbans, West Bengal has been prepared by the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency, Kolkata and is being updated by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.

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