Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Power Demand and Production in South India

Summer is nearing which might lend us a drop in Hydel power as well as Wind power being produced in the Southern peninsula.

USA, Nellis AFB, Solar Power Plant (13GW Operational Capacity)
Tamil Nadu, may end up being most affected as it already is bearing the brunt of lack of electrical energy to meet demand.  The above image is most alluring of 13GW of actual production from 18GW of installed Solar Production capacity in the USA at the Nellis Airforce Base with over 56 hectares of sun-following panels.

I have earlier discussed the capability and scope of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in my blog-post. I have also reviewed the total power production potential in Tamil Nadu (that caters to neighboring states as well.)

The present electric power cuts have been partly induced by an acute shortage of coal. As the Telengana agitation begun, India's production of over 400 million tonnes of coal (annually) dwindled as some of the open mines suffered flooding while supply routes were cut. This was the first sign of major power cuts which began during the DMK regime in a 2hr quantum. These have suddenly increased due to a further shortfall of coal. Further drops in Wind power production and Hydel power drops have left most parts of Tamil Nadu with over 8 hours of power cuts each day. (I write this from Thanjavur where 9 hours of power-cut each day is a regular feature.)

In part private operators have not received over 25,000crores in payment for power supply from various sources. The total quantum of loan that has been left unpaid is over 35,000crores for which the present government led by the AIADMK has also not been able to work any remedies in time.
(ref: )

Here is the current Nuclear Energy production capability and plans of India. You can easily see the earlier generation Nuclear reactors of the order of hundreds of MWh generation capacity versus the new GWh plants that are being proposed.

An article on possible alternatives to KNPP published by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.which seems almost myopic or limited in scope, yet informative to read is here:

Ref: [PDF]
It does discuss the cost of power which is relevant.

Another option is the Bloom-box which is probably costlier in terms of KWh, still promising in producing distributed power.

To highlight the actual issue in Tamil Nadu, I am quoting my friend Vimal Ravi on his insightful comments on the situation.
  1. The previous DMK & ADMK regimes did not plan properly for new power plants. They never had proper vision to anticipate the power requirements of an ever-increasing user base.
  2. TNEB owes to private power producers (thermal, wind, solar) to the tune of Rs.25,000 crores. So newer players are reluctant to start energy ventures (fearing heavy sunk debts.)
  3. Kudankulam can give only (an immediate respite of) 900MW of power but we need 3500MW more as on date. This renders only a small percent of the requirement, but we still have a huge deficit of 2600MW.
  4. Gujarat is ready to give 600MW power to TN but again there are no proper channelized power distribution grids to bring power from Gujarat to TN via Karnataka and Kerala!
  5.  Existing wind plants have been proved less than 70% efficient even during peak wind (to the tune of at least 2000MW) owing to improper wind studies
Wind Power: Muppandhal near Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India
As far as Wind Energy Installations in Tamil Nadu are concerned, we have a capacity of 6400MW. Production can be up to 6100MW (deficit 300MW resulting from the inability to have a distribution grid for that volume, though the windmills are in place.) Of this 6100MW, 4100MW is the maximum actually produced ever for a period of less than 60 days in 2011.

Each Windmill in a Wind power plant can handle a peak capacity of 2.5 MWh and due to limited availability of land that is exposed to frequent wind, can be installed in limited capacity per farm (think 150MW - 300MW per farm at max, we have 40MW farms too.)

I would be realistic in mentioning that we do have a deficit of land in the southern states to provide for a complete "Solar Power Station" of massive scale. The largest I am aware of can handle 13GW of load against its installed capacity of 18GW and is to be extended to a total of 36GW in the near future.

This is an attractive, fundamentally Eco-friendly alternative requiring lots of space, security and sun. If install anything close to this capacity, logically clouds and monsoons should compensate by pushing up Wind energy and Hydel becoming the ideal choice. The cost of thin panel technology, manufacture, supply, installation, maintenance and security of the plant would be the issues to address.

The alternative is to use distributed solar power arrays letting household communities install their own, while industries can start building their own power arrays based on a limited set of technologies they would be permitted to use. The lesser the government interference, the easier it would be - which is because of failure of governance rather than preference of lesser interference.

Microturbine power plants in Hotel Roofs

Distributed power will need efficient coordination and monitoring to ensure that demand is met as required. Deficits in power production created by unrealistic power subsidy schemes (supposedly for poor farmers - although no one knows who gets to use it) have to be minimized to an absolute zero. 

Src: Pike Research (Distributed Solar Panels for Homes)
There are alternate distributed power sources including Microturbines and Solar power too. There are choices here, and these are places where the onus of upgrade, security and maintenance can be pushed closest to the consumer. This could be a solution in highly urbanized areas where built-up area is significant and close-by.

Cooperative attempts in rain-water harvesting have been demonstrated at rural levels too. Usage of Solar Heat for Cooking has been demonstrated at rural cooperative societies. Drought has been handled in projects like Jamkhed (Dr. Arole) using distributed solutions rather than government dependent centralized solutions.

Integrated Solar cells and Tiles
There are more options available as research is ever increasing in this area. Refer for the image to the right of integrated solar-power tiles that have been fabricated and  used in the state of Kerala, India. 

Considering that Governmental machinery has been slow to tackle all problems including energy production that is vital for Industry and is necessary for day-to-day function at domestic level, a distributed approach could be something that can be initiated and deployed at a citizen level. Granted all our raves and rants, we still have the onus to solve this problem as best as we can.