Thursday, July 24, 2008

A solvable power crisis

The power crisis faced today exists or does not exist depending on how you look at it. Large industries still continue to work normally by running diesel generators. Many homes do not feel the pinch too as they would have UPSs. Even a remote village such as Kabbigere is not short of power. The government however is not able to procure the required power even if it is willing to pay double the actual price. When such is the case, it is worth thinking whether power distribution has to be reconfigured.

The solution really is that power need not be distributed at all. Power can be generated in distributed locations just as the Kabbigere example above demonstrates. However, this requires many considerations as well. For example, we found that Biomass gassification is not feasible always as it requires a constant supply of woody biomass. When demand is created in a village for biomass, the costs for the previously-considered-as-waste biomass suddenly increases. So, unless the biomass gassifier is maintained by the village people themselves, it is difficult to operate one profitably. This is the main reason, most biomass gassifiers are run by village panchayats/communities. The biomass gassifiers at West Bengal run by village people has in fact changed the quality of life of the people living there.

It is not just biomass. Solar thermal is appropriate for areas that receive a lot of sunlight which is quite normal in much of the country. Methanification of urban waste is another source of energy.

If only the government ever considers distributed power as much as it should instead of working on uncertain energy sources such as nuclear, it would be possible for a India without constant power-cuts.

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