Intro: India needs to develop technologies for large-scale power generation from alternative sources that are environment friendly.
The world today stands at the crossroads with regard to viable long term options for electricity generation. This is primarily because of serious environmental degradation that has been witnessed over the last two to three decades. Coal based thermal power generating plants are huge emitters of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and oxides of sulphur and nitrogen besides particulate matter, all of which are serious pollutants of atmosphere. Natural gas based power plants emit all of these pollutants except particulate matter. It needs to be understood that large hydro power plants also leave deleterious effects on the environment by disturbing landscape and ecology. Nuclear power plants have the continuing problem of disposal of nuclear waste which, after dumping, keeps on emitting harmful radiation for 400 or 500 years. The fallouts of nuclear power plant accidents are serious and uncontrollable, like the ones in Chernobyl disaster of Russia and Fukushima in Japan. That has considerably undermined the attractiveness of power generation from nuclear processes.
In view of it we seriously need to develop technologies for large-scale power generation from alternative sources that are environment-friendly. Solar power and wind power generation are two renewable power generation options available with us today. But whereas wind power generation potential is grossly limited, the existing technologies of solar power generation do not lend themselves to large scale generation. Solar Photovoltaic or solar thermal power plants that have been developed so far are of limited capacity, short of 200 MW. Solar thermal power plants of higher capacity can be built by technological improvements and innovations. Another option that is being seriously looked at is the development of power plants with solar thermal radiation collectors in space which can absorb huge amounts of solar radiation in upper atmosphere, convert it into electricity through conversion modules and then transmit the power to the surface of the earth through cables. Japanese companies are undertaking serious research on this.
In the light of constraints posed by global regulating agencies for reducing greenhouse emissions, we in India need to adopt a prudent strategy that will be focussed on creation of limited capacity of power generation by conventional thermal, hydro and nuclear resources, establishment of renewable energy generation plants of the present technologies under our ambitious set out programs and intensive Research and
Development (R&D) in the area of renewable energy generation. We need to have a look at some basic questions related to our living paradigms. How much per capita energy will be required for the human generations in the short term and medium term future? Were such energy usage patterns, existing anytime in the past on the globe? The knowledge base of our ancient texts where we get oblique references to water, flower petals or mercury as fuels for aviation as well as energy generation needs to be explored, studied and analysed seriously. Modern technologies are the result of scientific efforts of barely last 500 years where things started from scratch. But humanity is more than 1.96 billion years old on this planet as revealed by Vedic texts. Therefore, multiple civilisations have flourished and perished on the earth in its long, chequered history. It stands to reason that scientific endeavour, achievements and practice were a part of these civilisations. Hence, we need to set up big, government sponsored research and development centres in the area of renewable energy. It is a technology driven world today. Tomorrow will belong to those who have developed new technologies, which are more efficient and environment friendly.
Atul Sehgal (The writer is a power sector professional of long standing)
(July 19, 2015 Page : 10)