Future Perspectives for Renewable Energy in India
India is facing an acute energy scarcity which is hampering its industrial growth and economic progress. Setting up of new power plants is inevitably dependent on import of highly volatile fossil fuels. Thus, it is essential to tackle the energy crisis through judicious utilization of abundant the renewable energy resources, such as biomass energy, solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy. Apart from augmenting the energy supply, renewable resources will help India in mitigating climate change. India is heavily dependent on fossil fuels for its energy needs. Most of the power generation is carried out by coal and mineral oil-based power plants which contribute heavily to greenhouse gases emission.
The average per capita consumption of energy in India is around 500 W, which is much lower than that of developed countries like USA, Europe, Australia, Japan etc. However, this figure is expected to rise sharply due to high economic growth and rapid industrialization. The consumption of electricity is growing on the worldwide basis. Energy is a necessity and sustainable renewable energy is a vital link in industrialization and development of India. 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.
A Glance at Renewable Energy Sources in India
Solar power, a clean renewable resource with zero emission, has got tremendous potential of energy which can be harnessed using a variety of devices. With recent developments, solar energy systems are easily available for industrial and domestic use with the added advantage of minimum maintenance. Solar energy could be made financially viable with government tax incentives and rebates.
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. The current architectural designs make provision for photovoltaic cells and necessary circuitry while making building plans.
Wind power is one of the most efficient alternative energy sources. There has been good deal of development in wind turbine technology over the last decade with many new companies joining the fray. Wind turbines have become larger, efficiencies and availabilities have improved and wind farm concept has become popular. It could be combined with solar, especially for a total self-sustainability project.
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.
Hydro Electric Power
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.
Biomass energy can play a major role in reducing India’s 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.
Waste-to-energy plants offer two important benefits of environmentally sound 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. Moreover, waste-to-energy plants are highly efficient in harnessing the untapped sources of energy from a variety of wastes.
Decentralized Energy Generation in India
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. 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 for domestic and industrial power generation.
Traditional “megapower” production of electricity is insufficient today because of exponential industrial growth and high living standard. Microgeneration can act as a catalyst for cultural changes in consumer attitude, and provides evidence of the important impact that microgeneration has on consumers’ attitude and behavior 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 gasifiers, solar power, micro-hydro, or a combination of these technologies. 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.
Industrialized countries, like USA, Australia, Japan, have formulated action plan to foster sustainable energy to make judicious use of renewable energy resources. 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.
Proposed Guidelines for Power Consumers in India
* Explore all possibilities to set-up an independent power plant making use of renewable resources like solar, wind and biomass.
* Use of government / utility electricity supply, only in case of emergency.
* Energy savings by using low wattage / high luminous lamps (CFL / LED).
* Use of power factor improves.
* Regular maintenance and servicing of electrical equipments.
* Avoidance of inverters and large storage batteries (except emergency).
* Intelligent power factor correctors to minimize energy losses in capacitor at lower load conditions.
* Frequent energy audits
Proposed Guidelines for Policy Makers in India
* Vigorous promotion of renewable energy by government agencies, corporate, public sector, academic institutions etc.
* Establishment of national-level body to increase awareness of renewable energy at grass-root level
* Financial support and sponsorship for research and development in renewable energy technologies.
* Ambitious goals and targets for power generation non-conventional sources.
* Installation of solar / wind / biomass power generation systems and energy saving in every government office to encourage and inspire people.
* Restriction on using large battery energy storage systems.
* Compulsory installation of solar water heating systems for all urban residential and commercial establishments.
* Mandatory renewable energy systems provision for new residential, commercial and industrial buildings.
* Attractive incentives and subsidies for installation and successful operation of renewable energy equipment.
* Abolishing duties / taxes on import of small-scale renewable energy generating equipment
* Cultivation of energy crops on marginal and degraded land
* Use of biofuels in vehicles.
* Soft loans for setting up renewable energy enterprises.
* Additional incentives for buyers and manufacturers of renewable energy equipments in rural areas.
Guidelines for Research Professionals
* Development of comprehensive educational and awareness modules for renewable energy systems.
* Development of cost-effective, high-efficiency and long-lasting photovoltaic cells.
* Development of high efficiency wind turbines, ranging from 300 W – 10 kW, to generate energy even at low wind velocity.
* Development of small-scale, low maintenance biomass gasifiers to make use of abundant biomass resources in rural areas for cogeneration
There is an urgent need for transition from petroleum-based energy systems to one based on renewable resources to decrease reliance on depleting reserves of fossil fuels and to mitigate climate change. In addition, renewable energy has the potential to create many employment opportunities at all levels, especially in rural areas. An emphasis on presenting the real picture of massive renewable energy potential, it would be possible to attract foreign investments to herald a Green Energy Revolution in India.
Author: Ravi Soparkar
Electrical Engineer from Mumbai. 40 + years experience in engineering business. Working on micro-generation feasibility in renewable energy for past five years. Participated in numerous national and international conferences and workshops all over the world. Presently associated as senior consultant with Super Consultants Inc from Maryland USA