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Tag Archives: Thermal power station

World Water Day – Do you know how much water a light bulb consumes?


By 2030, researchers estimate that the disparity between national water demand and reliable water supply will be nearly 50%. Currently, India has a total water demand of around 700 billion cubic metres, of which almost 85% is used for producing food. In another 17 years, India will have only half the water it needs, thanks to global warming and population explosion. On the World Water Day on March 22, the need to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating sustainable management of freshwater resources will be of pivotal importance. If we consider even the most cost-effective solution to reduce water scarcity, it will require an annual spend of nearly Rs35,000 crore by 2030, according to ‘Charting our water future: Economic frameworks to inform decision-making’, a report by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.The report stated that India would require investments to the tune of Rs8 lakh crore over the next 20 years to provide basic infrastructure services like water, waste water and solid waste management. In India, just about 64% of urban population is covered by individual water connections compared to 91% in China, 86% in South Africa and 80% in Brazil. Allocation of Rs15,260 crore has been made in the Budget towards clean drinking water and sanitation as against revised estimates of Rs13,000 crore. A DNA News report by Dilnaz Boga.

While reading this under my study light, I looked up and started thinking – how much water does my light drink? I found some interesting answer under Saving Electricity, on water consumption to produce electricity (more information can be found in EIA page ). While I would not be able to verify the facts noted as under, even believing them to be accurate to some extent, presents a very sombre scenario.

Water Consumption by different types of Power Stations to produce electricity

  • Solar plant with dry cooling:  80 gallons per  megawatt-hour
  • Nuclear plants (with closed-loop cooling):  700-1100 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Nuclear plants (with open-loop cooling):  25,000-60,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Coal-fired plants (closed-loop):  500-600 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Coal-fired plants (open-loop):  20,000-50,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Biomass (crops grown for the purpose of fuel):  40,000 to 100,000 gallons per megawatt-hour
  • Natural gas fracking:  2-10 million gallons per well

This information required some chilled soft-drink and potato chips and lowering the temperature of the A/c. After all I have attended so many conferences on climate change, I have by now got used to the habit of consuming good food & drinks in luxury. How else can one solve the pressing issues of water scarcity and its related fall-outs like war and riots? Hunger and malnutrition caused due to drought and famine too requires a chilled pineapple juice in a PET bottle to be addressed properly.

Now let’s do some simple maths – 1 gallon = 3.78 litres (US- liter). As on July 31, 2010, and as per the Central Electricity Authority the total installed capacity of Coal or Lignite based power plants in India are 87093.38 MW.

So the water required to produce this electricity  87093.38 x 2268 liters = 19,75,27,786 litres.(assuming all are closed loop consuming  600 gallons/MW) Presently we have around 111 Thermal power plants which are coal/lignite based.

While it can be argued that water is recycled most of the time. That the coal, nuclear, Bio-mass, Natural gas fracking power plants  require water can not be denied. And it is impossible to stop the leakages. Some of it will have to escape, thus requiring continuous replenishment. Even Solar thermal requires water, though it can be called a saint in comparison to the others.

Thus a huge amount of water is not reaching the fields of a drought hit farm, or recharging the wells to quench the thirst. So with every drop of electricity produced we are removing vast amounts of water from the natural water cycle. This must be clearly understood.

India has an installed power generation capacity of 2,10,950 megawatts of electricity, according to government figures. And as per various estimates, India’s power generation meets only 90% of total demand.

TableAs the demand for electricity for a resurgent India is bound to increase, the thermal power plants have to increase their capacity or new plants would be needed to be set up. Same would be the case for Nuclear, Natural Gas, Bio-mass and Natural Gas Fracking.

With the table given, it is easy to the calculate how much water is required to produce electricity, which most of us waste. The common person needs to understand that Energy & Water are interlinked. Just as it is inside the body of a human. Without water, one has to die. Similarly without water we shall have no electricity. Until Renewable Energy, especially Solar PV and Wind mature to cover the demand supply gap. But this is not happening any time soon.

It is a choice in front of the intelligent animal named “human” to decide which is more important. To quench its thirst or thirst for more power to light up the ugly, unsustainable city which it habitats. The situation soon would be a choice of one or the other, unless we change the way we live. Sustainable design and living is no more an option but a necessity.

In my opinion, to celebrate World Water Day, municipalities all over the World  should announce 1 day of no water supply. This would make each and every citizen sit up and take notice of the school children walking down the streets holding placards on how to conserve water. The Police should arrest water thieves, a common thing in India & many other Asian countries and parade them in front of the media before putting them in jail. It is only then the seriousness of the problem be understood by the people. If at all.

For as long as city dwellers get their share of fresh-food and water supply, they care a damn from whose mouth it has been snatched. Thus, we will find people continue to throng so-called Holy men doing the unholy act of wasting water in cities of states which are in grip of severe drought.It is the mindset of the people which needs to be changed with sustained practical approach towards sustainable practice.

And one such idea could be by educating the people in a more grass-roots approach. We all need a home to live. And most in India aspire to own a home.

This could start with the building industry. The building industry consumes 40% of the world’s energy needs and 60% of all waste stems from it.

The Indian Builders Association has been seeking the Infrastructure status from the Government for a very long time. The Government could moot a law that in exchange of giving into that demand, the top management of all big and small builder and related stake-holder companies must go for certified & comprehensive Green Building training.

India practices two wonderful Energy Efficient Building design certification program through IGBC & GRIHA. Since its inception in 2001 IGBC, which practices the Indian version of LEED has 1,972 registered buildings and 149 projects are with GRIHA which opened in 2007. (source: Click here).

It is too small a number to effect a reverse change in the Global Warming and Water & Energy conservation. But if developers are made to attend Orientation Workshops as is organised by Centre for Science and Environment along with those by TERI -GRIHA and CII-IGBC. And without whose valid certificate one would not be given the licence to build, we may still be able to make the desired change we want in our effort to conserve Water and Energy.

This would automatically percolate to the public, the home/office buyers who would be bombarded by the green information in every brochure the developers distribute. And when the public starts to use the facilities and notice the difference it makes to their lives, the mission would have achieved its target.

And for once I believe this not to be a wishful thinking but a doable project. All that is needed is support from those who can influence the decisions of Governments.

 

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Subsidy on GHG producing products and procedure must stop


Locator map of the state of Maharashtra, India...

Locator map of the state of Maharashtra, India with district boundaries and Admin. divisions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The State of Maharashtra tabled its annual budget this week. Although on the face of it there is cause for worry, as some measures would bring in more inflationary pressure for the common man; the environmentalist in me was happy. Diesel, Petrol, Plaster of – Paris ( with which large Hindu Deity Idols are cast every year, and immersed into lakes & rivers, polluting them further; thus the idols will be cast with eco-friendly materials now ) have become costly. Electric vehicles have become cheap with no tax applicable. Wow ! Reva electric, I will visit your show-room soon. Yet there are areas which strangely the Government both at the Centre & State, choose to ignore. And that is related directly to our forest cover.

During my recent visit to a food processing factory, for data gathering and understanding the process, (so that I can design a  IGBC  “Green Factory” rated second unit ) I was aghast at seeing tonnes of chopped wood being used to fire up the boiler, which produces hot-water required in drying up the pasta in the moulding machine. Inspecting further I saw them using archaic, bakery kilns which need a lot of wood to produce the heat required, to dry another food product.

I offered to give them a 250KW Solar Photo voltaic pilot under OPEX format, to produce the electricity which would at least reduce the use of wood; it was politely declined. Reason – They presume wood to be cheaper as 1kg is sold to them at a paltry sum of Indian Rupees 2.50 /- , because even if I don’t charge them a dime for the solar panels; instead take a tariff for the electricity generated,  it would work out to be INR 8.50 /- per KW. Which is higher  than the e-DISCOM charging the industries at INR 6.80 /- per KW.

The boiler requires 55 kg per hour x 24 hour x 365 days !

I stood silently looking at the chopped corpses of trees, which were once alive and swaying gently in the breeze while birds and bees sang the welcome song to the newly arriving butterfly, bursting out from the shell of the pupa – hanging under a shady green leaf; and advised, how instead of throwing away the charcoal produced in the process of burning the tree – to use it again; its heat is more intense per Kg/Cal  then the wood.  While silently bowing my head to the trees which even post being killed and burned can help humanity in form of charcoal.

And I was angry. Angry at the system which only gives lip service to the cause of sustainability. Where no real measures are in place to curb the menace of chopping down trees for fire wood ; not for cooking meal of the improvised indigenous people living in the forest { they are persecuted by forest officials, who most ( if not all ) are in cahoots with wood smugglers } but for making pasta for the élite, who live in cities and take out candle light march to make the World aware of “Global Warming” ! Candles by the way is a GHG producing hydro-carbon.  Sad that no real and meaningful progress is being done to educate about  the actual cost of  electricity being provided cheaply by the state through coal-fired Thermal power plants.

While it is true that our modern economy has trapped itself within a vicious circle where we can not find easy answers for achieving a balanced and sustainable growth while maintaining the life-style we have adopted, it is equally true that unless hard measures are taken now,  our life would be styled to that of early cave-men in the near future. And the answer is No, if one is thinking it would be the fate of everyone. It would be only for those who would be unfortunate enough to survive the floods, droughts, famine and War that would be fought between countries for the best water hole !

I grieve,  when our leaders express that they have the mandate of the people towards development  which are inherently high -carbon; and my frustration is directed towards UNEP. Can they not devise a system wherein  they can get the mandate of the grass-root people around the World, which can stand as legitimate in the International court of Law ?  How can we create a sustainable economy when coal fired thermal stations and raw wood is being burnt by million tonnes per day, is considered to be cheaper than renewable or alternate energy ? How difficult is it to get a missed call, a sms and an e-mail endorsement which has some legal standing ? How difficult is it for powerful environmental groups, who have the ears of UNEP, to create an advertisement which all type of media can then carry as their CSR. Can they make more people aware of the thoughts of Buckminster Fuller and many such eminent personalities, who show the way towards transition to sustainable energy management ? thus mobilizing the people in understanding pertinent issues and then conduct a debate as whether the people are ready to burden their shoulders with hard economic choices, for a short term to be able to enjoy sustainable economy forever afterwards. And thus debunk the justification given by the elected representatives, who claim to know what people want ?

I have never for a minute believed that personal prejudice and bias do not creep into policy making. For every Politician & Bureaucrat is human first, not to be affected by the environment s/he must have grown-up in. And most often than not these people have over-riding ambition for self-promotion, before National /International cause, they endorse. And if that self is conditioned to feel comfortable in an environment, hard it is to break away from that familiar life-style which has provided all that they have today. And the familiar life-style sadly is high-carbon economy & the creature comfort it gives us till date.

When people are told that catastrophe would befall in the next 50 to 100 years, they laugh, and say – ‘enough time in hand’. The Taj is 358 years old and every day  hundreds of people travel back in time and come back, when they enter the gates of the Taj Mahal – 300 years is here and present ! So the effects of our inactions today will be felt by our own future generation, not too far in the distant future, for us not to care enough !

Therefore can’t the UNFCCC at the Rio+20, armed with concrete evidence in terms of Peoples endorsement towards a low carbon economy petition the UN to pass a binding resolution for all Nations to comply to green standards ? All  resolutions to bomb a country or pass stringent economic sanctions without a shred of evidence pass smoothly at the UNSC, but when it comes the time for UNFCCC – which has evidence of clear and present danger to the World, no resolution gets passed for economic sanctions on Countries which are doing very little in terms of climate change abatement. The UNEP would always lose out to UNSC in these matters as I had predicted in my previous article. Unless we all join hands, big and small organization, individuals and lay men to lay bare the critical situation we all would face, if lopsided environmental reforms continue deep into 2020, the red-line flagged by the SREX report as point of no return for disastrous Global Warming .

 

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Coal corporations helping India’s Clean tech aspirations is becoming successful – a model more nations need to follow.


Renewal Energy Distribution Companies find it so difficult to work and grow.The primary reason being denial of open access system by the power supplying companies the unquestioned rulers. The resistance is natural although national policy says in time open access must be allowed to level the playing field and bring grid parity. These companies have spent a lot of money and effort into developing the infrastructures and letting the new RE guys piggy-back on them is not something which sound business policy advocates. Yet, these powerful “Goliaths” would fall and the “RE Davids” would rise. Sustainable Energy requirements is the call of the hour.

For Humankind, the preservation of self is the most supreme and any event or cause which would stand in its way would have to perish. Today the desperation for survival of small island nations and mountain states, being mostly small in size and economic might; not really being heard by the mighty nations and the supporting fossil-fuel corporation. But as the effect of Climate change is being felt and the associated business risk gets recorded within the mighty nations, along-with more businesses understanding that their economic salvation lies in marketing and manufacturing ecologically sustainable products, the fossil fuel led lobby’s influence and foot-print is bound to shrink.

And no one can stand against the might of the collective. History has proved it time and again. And when an idea whose time has come also gets the support of the powerful United Nations, crony capitalism and narrow national interest will lose. It is the writing on the wall.

But Indian ethos teaches compassion. Those who have provided energy to the world for the last 300 years must not be thrown out unceremoniously but shown the light. Just as it is difficult and confusing for a one mighty ruler to accept defeat and face uncertainty, so is the case of these Energy Czars. Redundancy is not a polite word.

So India has devised a way out. The solution although complex, the logic is simple – channel the oil / coal profit into R&D of Renewable Energy solutions.This is the reason why in India we have the NVVN .  In Mumbai, India; BEST ( Birhan mumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking ) draws 10% of its Electrical power for supply from RE as mandated for development & support of RE.Such mandate is more or less followed by all states.

Moreover, no one imagines that in the next 50 years, oil / coal would vanish from our economy. While its use begins to diminish ( hopefully ) it would be wise for the companies to diversify and invest from now into the clean-tech. And in the present economic situation, buying could be cheap.Further they should help in easing the entry of roof-top solar / wind in the immediate future. This would free up their power for industrial use, while residential, school & malls could draw their power from the RE industry.

A win-win situation for all. Hope the model is adopted by Nations sooner than later.

 

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Renewable Energy is viable..period.


The preamble

The power of raw sunshine at midday on a cloudless day is 1000 W per  square meter. We can turn this raw power into useful power in four ways:

1. Solar thermal: using the sunshine for direct heating of buildings or water.

2. Solar photovoltaic: generating electricity.

3. Solar biomass: using trees, bacteria, algae, corn, soy beans, or oilseed to make energy fuels, chemicals, or building materials.

4. Food: the same as solar biomass, except we shovel the plants into humans or other animals.

David JC MacKay

With the run-up to Rio+20 Summit and the UNEP driven Future Cities program the use of RE especially Solar becomes more and more important.

With the tremendous pressure all Nations are facing over Environmental Impacts from their citizens, who are getting more and more aware about the disasters non-sustainable living; Bangkok would be a very recent example; RE in all form would have to be accepted and assimilated main-stream. Let there be no confusion that the Economy of the world are driven by three basic needs from time immemorial – Food, Clothing & Shelter. I will deal separately the issues of Energy -Water in detail later.

Food – Requires energy, from plantation to processing to cooking.

Clothing – Textile industry are considered one of the high energy usage sector.

Shelter – About 40% of GHG (green house gas) comes from building related activities.

In many countries Sustainable Building design have been adopted in form of BREEAM, LEED, IGBC etc. Nations have committed to the UNFCCC agenda of keeping the world temperature from rising another 2°c. All that requires tremendous dedicated effort from all sectors.

And most importantly, busting the myth of negative Return on Investment (RoI) put forward by the fossil fuel industry.

The Argument

In my opinion, if the home I live in sinks under the sea because I refused to pay a little more now to avail RE sources for my energy needs over coal/oil, I don’t think myself much of an economist.

An economist is a person who plans for the welfare of generations to come, albeit his own. Given the fuel lobbyist are pandering to this very self agenda, however there is a small flaw – their path would just sink the landmass; not much of an economic playing field will be then left, for the future generation !

Having said that, let’s see if we can still make a case of RoI with using RE in its present economic form. Today the cost of generation of power is “compared to” the cost of generation of power via fossil fuel. This in itself is a flawed argument. As I’m not an economist, my examples would be simple. Also I would perhaps not be 100% accurate in my assessment.

Now to begin with my theory – Fossil fuel has been used as a primary source of energy since man learned to control fire; however it was during the industrial revolution with the advent of steam engine did the consumption of fossil fuel jump exponentially. But if documents are researched, energy from fossil fuel driven carts would not have been cheaper than horse driven carriages in the then predominantly agrarian era. Neither was flying over ship when its time came!

It was only by economy of scale that these things became “cheaper”. Also because they became popular, flying though costlier than travel by ship saved time, thus the merchant could do more business within the allotted time, than waste more of it via land/sea travel. So even if flying (even today) is costlier than sea/land travel, the business person calculates his RoI in the form of time saved! Now if for some reason the venture fails, then the RoI becomes bad. So for a successful business person air-travel is good RoI and for the other bad! So in lay-man terms RoI is a subjective matter. It depends on what is the datum of your argument. I have as yet to see any person who buys a fuel guzzling car ever calculate RoI. Therefore RoI is a concept which needs to be researched better.

Further warming up to this argument, how does one say that the cost of generation from Thermal power is cheaper than Renewable Energy? Does it factor in the destruction – ecological, social & physical (pollution leads to host of diseases)? Moreover, it can but consumed only once. You burn the coal or oil, it would not come back to you, and you can’t replenish it via any natural process. It can be argued that the paradigm of Business is different from literally logic which perhaps is what I’m professing. However with “Eurocracy” in serious danger perhaps all business models need to be restructured.

The Solution

Now, having vented my exasperation on the fossil fuel lobby’s clever wining technique, let us dwell on the subject of improving the reach of Sustainable energy production. Just as any new technology in its infancy faces teething trouble, so is the RE industry.

Amongst all, Solar is the most promising and perhaps therefore faces most challenges. Its plant efficiency factor is very low, it uses large surface area and the present technique of trapping the solar rays are perhaps cumbersome. But given dedicated research and analysis, it is perhaps the best bet. Because there are two things one can bet his last dollar on, the Sunshine and the Breeze. As long as the Earth is there these two would be available for sure.( so would geothermal & wave, but that’s another story) Having understood that, what can we do to make this industry stand on its own? For that we would need changes in mass thinking. Once that is achieved the political class would seal the deal.

To change the mass thinking we need to bring RE into their everyday lives. In India we have the Prime Minister driven Nation Action Plan on Climate Change. Through these the Government is trying to make at first the 9 Industry sectors energy efficient. However the Building Industry is untouched at the moment. Even then if amongst the 9 sectors (Aluminum; Cement; Chlor-alkali; Fertilizer; Iron & Steel; Pulp& Paper; Power; Textile & Railways) have role of the Building industry; as each need their HQ and other Administrative blocks for operations.

 If 10% of energy use for these industries on their above mentioned assets is made mandatory along with offsetting another 5% of energy use by their respective employees residence, we will begin with a massive program, which will truly bring in the scale required to make RE viable. Most importantly, it would act as a compromise. A compromise between the Government who would want NMEEE and PAT to be viable as soon as possible and the said Industrial sectors which is putting forth their argument of the trails & tribulations.

India should lead the SAARC nations in providing  Solar -RE for its rural and most importantly Tier-II, III & IV towns and cities. This is because, availability of roof-top to pattern of consumption; is complementary to each-other. That is, most of the residential buildings are single owner 1-3 storied buildings with ample roof and land area. Along with it the residents are yet to be “spoilt” by the crass consumerist life-style which the mega-cities of India have taken to, in its quest to become more “western”. They by default consume less energy and this itself becomes an advantage to put small systems on their roof-tops to amply fulfill their energy needs.

Already most countries are familiar with “Green Building” concepts through LEED / GRIHA / BREEAM etc. Energy efficiency is becoming important to sustainable living and the concept of “Green Power” is getting introduced by these rating systems. Here too through local legislation or voluntary CSR 25% of a residential complex (min 100 flats) power needs could be through Solar PV. This would translate to the power consumed by the lift, gate/boundary lights and other common space lighting. Though the need for space to power the demand may not get fulfilled by the roof-tops alone, innovative and practical ideas are available! In sustainable terms if say each & every society of say, a city like Mumbai, more importantly the affluent districts in the city adopt the Solar roof-top solution the State of Maharashtra can better manage its Energy problems.

Translate this concept to New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore or Hyderabad and we can already see RoI of solar extremely practical.

Perhaps it can also inspire other countries to love Ra – the Sun God, as Civilization did when it began its journey!

 

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