All Nuclear Power Fans, learn from this tiny village in ladakh, light years ahead #mustshare


This tiny village in Ladakh might be frozen in time, but its initiative to harness renewable energy has led to all-round empowerment

RAMAPATI KUMAR, The Hindu

Sonam Tsomo prepares dinner on her electric cooker at her home in Udmaroo in Ladakh’s Nubra Valley. A micro-hydropower unit supplies electricity to the village for six hours every evening. Photo: Harikrishna Katragadda/Greenpeace

“Stupid TV,” Rigzen Tsomo mutters in the local Bodhi language as she taps her black & white TV set hard enough to get the reception back. “There…,” she smiles and returns to her seat.

Main samay hoon…,” says a man on the screen. “It’s Mahabharat!” I shout in excitement and turn to Rigzen. She looks at me, nods and quickly returns to watching the serial.

Udmaroo village in Ladakh is a civilization away from civilization. After a nine-hour journey from the capital Leh that involves trekking across two mountains, crossing a flower valley and a river, one reaches Udmaroo, a bright green triangle located at 10,320ft. This tiny village of 90 farmer families might be frozen 25 years back in time, but in terms of energy generation, it is at least 10 years ahead of all of us.

Ushering in hydropower

In 2005, the villagers put away their smoky kerosene lamps and a small diesel generator gifted to them by the Army, and approached the Ladakh Ecological Development Group to help them move ahead. Coal-based electricity was never an option for this remote village far away from the national grid. So, the group began to assess the villagers’ needs and feasibility of various types of renewable energy. Within three years, in 2008, Udmaroo was basking in the glow of electricity generated from a micro-hydro power plant installed in a glacier stream above the village.

Empowerment

Though just a power plant, in no time, it became a matter of pride, a source of income and a generator of happiness for the people of Udmaroo. Households got electricity to run their appliances. Children could play music and watch TV. A group of women, who bought an oil extraction machine to crush mustard seeds and apricot kernels, paid Rs.15 an hour for electricity and sold their hourly produce for Rs.80. Excess oil was packaged and sold to the Army for Rs.300. Another women’s group bought a pulping machine, making 750 bottles of apricot jam every year. The men’s carpentry group doubled its income after it purchased an electric wood carving machine. While households paid Rs.90 per month, widows were given free electricity because they have no source of income. And even after all this, the village still had surplus electricity.

To understand what renewable energy is doing in a country like India where 300 million people still have no access to basic electricity, Udmaroo couldn’t explain it better. For the villagers, the hydropower plant didn’t just light up homes. It brought a community together. It gave people the key to control their lives and the power to choose how and when their resources are used. It helped the village save Rs.1.2 lakh that it used to spend every year to buy diesel for the generator. For the government, it is about saving money that it would have spent on importing coal to meet everybody’s energy needs. For environmentalists, it is about saving the climate. For human rights groups, it is about human well-being and poverty reduction. For feminists, it is about women’s empowerment.

Across India

Gone are the days when renewable energy meant dim solar lanterns. Small-scale renewable energy power plants are now cheaper, more reliable and more efficient. In Durbuk, in Ladakh, a solar power plant is powering 347 households, a clinic, a school and some government offices. In Tamil Nadu, apanchayat purchased a windmill that is not only providing electricity to the entire village but is also selling the surplus to State utilities and earning profit. In Bihar, a company named Husk Power Systems is using rice husk to generate electricity and supplying it to 250 villages.

Unlike coal that kills everything around it, renewable energy plays a transformational role by uplifting those who were earlier languishing in the dark. But the irony is that clean energy risks being typecast as a poor man’s fuel when it should be everyone’s first choice.

India is currently the world’s third largest carbon emitter. According to the Copenhagen Accord, which India signed along with 167 other countries, 80 per cent of the world’s proven coal, oil and natural gas reserves must remain in the ground in order to avoid warming the planet beyond the internationally agreed limit of 2° Celsius rise in average temperature. To achieve this, renewable energy must come up on a large scale and not as isolated stories of miracles.

Depleting reserves

From an economic point of view, no one needs proof that India is facing a power crisis. Coal reserves are depleting and getting expensive. Nearly 21 major plants in the country are facing severe coal shortages. In the last fiscal, India imported over 50 million tonnes of the fossil fuel, widening the country’s fiscal deficit to further dangerous levels.

From a social point of view, the government had promised to deliver electricity to the entire population by 2012. But considering that providing electricity to all means providing it for 24 hours of 365 days and not four hours in a day, the government missed the target by a long shot. Worse, it was the same year when India faced the world’s biggest power blackout.

Renewable energy is the need of the hour and it is capable of delivering what India needs. But will we, like the people of Udmaroo, realise it in time?

(Ramapati Kumar is campaign manager, Climate and Energy, Greenpeace India. June 5 is World Environment Day.)

Keywords: Udmaroo villageLadakhrenewable energycarbon emission

 

In India, Solar Ambitions Are Suddenly Outsize


 A worker cleaned panels at a solar plant in the village of Meerwada in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, which aims to add 800 megawatts of solar power within five years.
By DAVID FERRIS
After years of lagging behind China and the West in the adoption of solar power, some states in India are proposing to build solar farms at a galloping pace that leaves them at risk of falling short of electricity (a familiar problem here) or of paying higher prices for it.

In just the last five months, five Indian states have announced plans to bring giant amounts of solar power online within five years, including 1,000 megawatts in Andhra Pradesh, 350 megawatts in Rajasthan, 800 megawatts in Madhya Pradesh, 1,000 megawatts in Chhatisgarh and a whopping 3,000 megawatts in Tamil Nadu.

By comparison, the entire nation of India currently has just over 1,000 megawatts of solar power, and California, the leader in solar power in the United States, has around 2,000. India has more than 300 sunny days a year and much of the nation lies near the equator — ideal conditions, geographically speaking, for harnessing solar power.

The central government has a goal of producing 22 gigawatts of solar power by 2022. Proponents say that solar energy might reduce the country’s dependence on coal, which is always in short supply, and slow the effects of climate change, including sea-level rise, which endangers the country’s coastal cities.

The national government, known here as the Center, intends to lean heavily on the states in working toward that target. And in the last few months a handful of states have emphatically responded.  “The momentum is shifting from the Center to the states,” said Vineeth Vijayaraghavan, who publishesa newsletter on the Indian clean tech industry.

Recent events in Tamil Nadu underline the risks of trying to build out solar power too quickly.

Rolling blackouts are a fact of life here because of a 4,000-megawatt deficit in power production. In response, the government announced in October that it was seeking bidders to build 1,000 megawatts of solar power each year until 2015.

Tamil Nadu modeled its bidding process after one that worked out strongly in the central government’s favor. In 2011, the center sought bids for solar power and was overwhelmed by suitors — it received 5,000 megawatts’ worth of proposals for 1,000-megawatt projects. The government held a novel reverse auction that made solar developers compete with one another to see who could sell power to the state more cheaply. The resulting rates saved the utility and its customers significant money.

Tamil Nadu introduced its own 1,000-megawatt offer last October, and initial interest by solar developers was intense. But some companies grew wary when they examined the fine print. Rules were vague about when payments would be made; the state’s power distributor, known as Tangedco, is in poor financial health, which makes it harder for solar builders to secure loans; and the utility took no responsibility for transmitting the electricity that the developers created.

Furthermore, the projects had to be unveiled at a punishing pace: companies had to acquire land, line up financing, build the solar farms and switch on the power by the end of this year.

As of Friday’s deadline, the state had received bids for just 499 megawatts, less than half its target.

Energy officials maintained in a press report that the response was “by no means discouraging.” But Tobias Engelmeier, the managing director of Bridge to India, a solar research and consulting firm, said that since many of the bids won’t meet the state’s criteria, Tamil Nadu may end up getting only 150 megawatts of solar power this year.

“I think that Tangedco was expecting a lot more enthusiasm,” said Madhavan Nampoothiri, a solar consultant in Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s capital. “They weren’t able to allow an extension, and now they’re going to have to.

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/in-india-solar-ambitions-are-suddenly-outsize/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Germany sets new solar power record, institute says


Solar Powered Street Light

Solar Powered Street Light (Photo credit: joostboers)

 

Sat, May 26 2012

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) – German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs.

“Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity,” Allnoch told Reuters. “Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over.”

The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources.

Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

SUNSHINE

Some critics say renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is eager to demonstrate that is indeed possible.

The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity this year and bright sunshine nationwide.

The 22 GW per hour figure is up from about 14 GW per hour a year ago.Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.

“This shows Germany is capable of meeting a large share of its electricity needs with solar power,” Allnoch said. “It also shows Germany can do with fewer coal-burning power plants, gas-burning plants and nuclear plants.”

Allnoch said the data is based on information from the European Energy Exchange (EEX), a bourse based in Leipzig.

The incentives through the state-mandated “feed-in-tariff” (FIT) are not without controversy, however. The FIT is the lifeblood for the industry until photovoltaic prices fall further to levels similar for conventional power production.

Utilities and consumer groups have complained the FIT for solar power adds about 2 cents per kilowatt/hour on top of electricity prices in Germany that are already among the highest in the world with consumers paying about 23 cents per kw/h.

German consumers pay about 4 billion euros ($5 billion) per year on top of their electricity bills for solar power, according to a 2012 report by the Environment Ministry.

Critics also complain growing levels of solar power make the national grid more less stable due to fluctuations in output.

Merkel’s centre-right government has tried to accelerate cuts in the FIT,which has fallen by between 15 and 30 percent per year, to nearly 40percent this year to levels below 20 cents per kw/h. But the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, has blocked it.

($1 = 0.7992 euros)

Solar-powered catamaran goes around the world in 584 days


Solar-powered catamaranThe solar-powered MS Turanor PlanetSolar crosses the finish line of its trip around the world at the Hercule Harbor in Monaco. (Laurent Gillieron / Associated Press / May 4, 2012)
By Deborah NetburnMay 4, 2012.

 In the spring of 2004 Raphael Domjan, a Swiss electrical engineer, conceived of a borderline insane idea — to travel around the world aboard a ship powered entirely by solar energy.

It would be an adventure and a statement. If he could do it, he would prove to the world that there are other alternatives to powering sea travel besides fossil fuels and wind. It would also demonstrate just what solar power is capable of.

In 2008 he formed a partnership with German entrepreneur Immo Stroeher, who helped provide the funds to make this idea possible.

And now, eight years later, Domjan’s dream is a reality: On Friday, the solar-powered MS Turanor PlanetSolar catamaran pulled into port in Monaco after completing a 37,294-mile journey around the world.

“We have shown that we have the technologies as well as the knowledge to become sustainable and safeguard our blue planet,” Domjan said in a statement.

The ship, designed by New Zealander Craig Loomes, is made of a durable lightweight carbon material and is covered with 38,000 solar cells that feed power to six blocks of lithium-ion batteries.

“Each new sunrise provides the catamaran with the light needed to continue its journey,” the PlanetSolar team wrote on its website.

It took the 115-foot boat 584 days — roughly 19 month — to make it all around the world. That is admittedly not a super-fast pace.

But there were stops along the way to promote solar power and even an encounter with pirates. There was also some waiting for the sun to come up to power those lithium batteries.

Now that the Domjan has completed his mission, he and the team at PlanetSolar will have to figure out what do with the ship.

“We are considering renting out the boat for scientific or commercial uses or even selling it,” Stroeher told Wired. “We are open for ideas and in talks with interested parties — from the use as a ‘green’ luxury yacht to scientific usages and the utilization as the world’s largest mobile solar power battery, everything is possible.”

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