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Boosting renewable energy

Life in India, in mid-summer, wilts like a drying flower. This year, however, reports of sun-stroke related deaths have been few and far between. Another good news is that the met department has forecast a normal monsoon this season and the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF) has corroborated its prediction.

A normal monsoon does not only bring relief to the denizens or cheer to the farmers, but also replenishes the reservoirs and dams, thereby augmenting hydel power potential in the country. A high monsoon also offers good opportunity for rainwater harvesting, but it is yet to catch the fancy of the masses, much like the roof top solar.
As the years are rolling by, it is becoming absolutely imperative for us to account for these ‘free’ natural goods that can be used for generating power. Tapping the sun in summer and capturing rainwater in the monsoon, for example, may go a long way in boosting renewables.

It is also becoming important to adopt the concept of integrated power solutions, whereby the firm and infirm sources can be put together in the energy basket and made to complement each other.

In many of the hybrid renewable energy projects, it is common knowledge, that thermal power is used to get the renewable generation started. For instance, in West Bengal’s Purulia Pumped Storage station, thermal power is used to pump water to the upper dam, from where water is discharged to the lower dam to generate 900 MW of hydel power. This is a perfect example of the integration of firm and infirm sources (even though hydel power can be termed as semi-firm source due to the nature of availability of the resource, especially in some seasons).

However, the Purulia Pumped Storage project could be a truly Green initiative had solar power (instead of thermal) been used to pump water during the day time and hydel power was harnessed in the night. A proto-type of this model has been developed by a solar research institute but, unfortunately, the scope for its application is limited. This is so because in choice of the source of power, political considerations still rule supreme.

As it stands now, despite all the hype over renewables, not many of these projects are expected to see the light of the day, for varied reasons, not all economic though. While coal is here to stay, the country should, for its own long-term good, fast change its outlook on the energy front, take into account all the free natural resources still available to us and put them to best use. And that mission should start with, not the government, but you and me.

Authored by

Arindam Bandyopadhyay

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