Archive for March, 2015


More Energy numbers

Numbers are such beautiful commodity that can be traded to our convenience! This is true in all walks of life….. Take for example a vendor selling fruits. To attract buyers he may say that the pries will escalate in the coming week. People (gullible) rush and buy and hoard the commodity only to realize that the future situation is not demanding as predicted by the vendor. This is true in power sector as well….whether it is fossil fuel based power or renewables. A common man does not know the significance of, for example, 20 MWe and 40 MWe. All he know is that the number is double. But for a civilized person, it mean a lot. He would like to know the logic behind making 20 to 40. Here, this is not simple arithmetic that we learn in primary school. Green Power conferences flood the emails…with superlative degree statements…….like “the world’s most wanted energy expert speaks about investment opportunities in geothermal” and “you will have one to one dialogue with him on matters related to investment. Be wise and don’t miss this opportunity”. For that matter, the person may just be an accountant and not a geothermal expert!. Solar pv number play havoc with numbers. According to the annual report of MNRE 2013, under the JNNSM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission), that was launched in 2010, the country is planning to generated 20,000 MW by 2020. As on today only 130 MW grid connected Solar PV based power is generated and 9366 kWp off grid power was generated. One can read the annual report of MNRE to get the correct numbers. Recently a renewable energy investment conference schedule to be held in India states that the solar power capacity will be 100 GW by 2022!! What a jump! It is really amusing to read such figures. And it is believed that MoUs for generating 226000 MW of solar are signed during this invest conference!!. Assuming this is solar PV, each MW solar PV needs about 8 acres of land and ……let us not talk about clean water!! Whether land requirement is built in these MoUs or not needs to be seen. In contrast, in 2014 the USEPA ( U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) proposed clean power plan (CPP). According to this plan the US will reduce carbon emission by 30% by 2030 compared to 2005 level. NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation) whose main task is to assure reliability of the bulk power system i.e. it evaluates the electricity system, develops and enforces reliability standards and supports capacity building. NERC released a report on the EPA’s CPP. According to this report, EPA’s CPP, 134 GW of baseload fossil fuel based power generation will cease to exists by 2020. Replacing this amount of 134 GW based load power from solar will be a challenge. EPA’s man thrust to reduce carbon emission is by energy efficiency. Thus NERC suggest further assessment of EPA’s CPP. Unfortunately what NERC did not realize is that Indian solar power pundits can generate any amount of power in a jiffy by signing MOUs! The investment conference is over and the country is happy and so the Govt. for planning to generate the above quantity of power …….when?   The common man is in the dark. He does not know when these numbers will see the SUN light!! Similarly, in an interactive session with a popular TV channel, a student from IIT states that 1 MW of solar PV costs 80 Crore!! On the other hand by using the heat from the Earth, one can generate 1 MWe power at 11 Crore!!…..with a land requirement of about 1 acre for this amount of power.  This heat is available 24×7 with guaranteed base load electricity supply, without power backup, at Rs 6-7 per unit. Land and water requirement are ignored by the wise men for power generation from SPV. No hidden costs and no subsidies in the case of heat from earth. One needs to be wise and use their own wisdom to judge….for judgement there are several information portals available in the present world of information technology. If this is the kind of growth the countries are expecting, then the entire earth will be solar powered and OPEC countries have to close their oil business and take up framing in the deserts!

Land and water are the primary elements that dictates power in future. Perhaps to sustain status quo of ancillary industries one is tempted to give large numbers. The International Energy Agency’s’ reports can be used as bench mark information platform to judge the growth of energy sectors across the globe. I have travelled in rural areas and amused to see solar pv panels to support street lighting are kept below tree canopy!   Once the unit is installed it goes into inventory and the number increases. No one checks whether the unit’s health. Business giants speak big numbers to catch investors..but the investors are cleaver. Moneywise they are wise!!

Like humans, machines generating power also need water…….that too fresh water!!. Around the world, electricity is generated from different sources…..oil, gas, coal, biomass, solid waste, wind, solar, water, ocean, geothermal……and so on. The list never ends. But all these sources that produce electricity consume substantial amount of water. Recently the International Energy Agency brought out this truth. Any policy maker in the Govt. or the Govt itself, “if” reads this report, then their top priority agenda should be water and energy and not only energy. For example, in 2010, 583 billion cubic meters of fresh water was consumed globally to generate 534434 petajoules of electricity. This amounts to 15% of the world’s total fresh water withdrawal. Conventional gas consumes 1000 L/toe; coal and oil -10000; ethnol-1000000;- in case of green energy sources: wind- <10 L/MWh; nuclear-10000; solar pv- 100; CSP- 10000; geothermal- 10000 (includes EGS). When technology to extract heat from hot rocks matures, CO2 can be used as extraction medium instead of water and the water consumption falls down drastically. The water requirement is only for power generation and battery storage and water demand to clean the solar panels are not accounted for here. In hydrothermal systems, the water is injected back into the reservoir. The projections are that the water demand for power will touch 691 billion cubic meters by 2035. One should keep in mind the drinking water demand that is not included here. This demand will grow exponentially with growth in population. Countries have to strike a balance between water for power and water for people. Future scenario will be reduction in CO2 and reduction in consumption of fresh water. Are we not heading towards ancient civilization who lived simple life without much of materialistic needs?