Monthly Archives: March 2013
Marking its presence in the renewable energy generation space, state-run NTPC has commissioned 10 MW solar power capacity, while its overall generation portfolio has crossed 41,000 MW. NTPC, which has ambitious renewable energy plans, has commissioned two solar projects — each having 5 MW capacity — in Maharashtra and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. These plants are in Dadri and Port Blair. “We have added 10 MW of solar PV (energy capacity) during this financial year and plan to add another 20 MW solar PV during the next fiscal (2013-14),” NTPC Chairman and Managing Director Arup Roy Choudhury said in a statement. Besides, NTPC’s total power generation capacity has increased to 41,184 MW with the commissioning of another 500 MW at Mouda plant in Maharashtra on Saturday.
Over the past year, with the shortage of coal and gas supply forcing power plants to drastically cut the amount of electricity they can generate, even forcing some to stay idle, another problem has added to power producers’ woes. During January, 632 million units could not be supplied to end-customers across various states in India despite there being generating stations willing and able to supply it. This amounts to around 7.5% of the country’s overall power supply deficit for the month — a seemingly small number till you realise that it is also equivalent to more than half of Tamil Nadu’s power shortage for the month; and about 40% of Andhra’s. Both states are reeling under a major power crisis. The culprit here is the Indian power sector’s ‘middle mile’ problem — simply put, the lack of enough capacity on power lines to move power generated to end-customers, wherever they are in the country. So far it has been a largely invisible issue, but of late it has become more acute. “This is a problem that we have witnessed at a growing pace in the last 2-3 years,” says Rajesh Mediratta, director, business development at Indian Energy Exchange (IEX).
India’s major roads may double up as solar highways, if an innovative proposal by some scientists gets the government’s approval. The proposal is the brainchild of scientists at the Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI) in the state capital.
In a paper just published in the International Journal of Energy, Environment and Engineering, the scientists say highways can be used to generate solar power, if a roof of solar panels was laid over them, across the length of the roads.
The photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert sunlight into electricity is normally spread out on land. “While the price of PV panels is falling day by day, the price of land and its availability are constraints in the development of solar power, especially in India,” says Tirumalachetty Harinarayana, director of GERMI and one of the authors of the paper.
“Our proposal overcomes this obstacle by using the space over the highways for placing the PV panels,” Harinarayana told IANS. “This space can contribute to energy generation without extra land costs.”
The proposal by Harinarayana and co-worker Pragya Sharma is based on case studies they carried out on two highways passing through Gujarat, using computer simulation.
From their computations, they estimate that a PV roof cover over the four-lane 205 km-long Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway can generate 104 MW of power while the Ahmedabad-Vadodara national highway, 93 km long, can generate 61 MW of electricity.
“We can suggest that the same concept can be extended for use on the 52,584-kilometre long national and state highways in India with four lanes or more,” the scientists said.
The four-lane 5,839-km long Golden Quadrilateral Highway, for example, connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, can potentially generate 4,418 MW of power while the North-South-East-West Corridor highway of 7,300 km connecting Srinagar, Kanyakumari, Porbandar and Silchar has 5,524 MW capacity of power generation.
“If having solar panel roof over the national highways proves successful, one can think of using all our rail network as well for solar energy generation,” Harinarayana said.
The GERMI scientists claim that apart from producing power, the solar highway concept, if implemented, can generate jobs for both skilled and unskilled people.
“Additionally, the shade provided by the over-head solar panels would result in improved vehicle efficiency and longer tyre life, besides reduction in road maintenance costs,” Harinarayana said.
“Another benefit of having a roof over the highways is rainwater harvesting at selected locations,” he said.
The scientists point out that the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission (JNSM) launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Jan 2010 could not reach its target of 1,200 MW electricity by March 2013 due to various problems.
Bio-batteries have now taken a giant leap towards becoming a reality. British scientists have made an important breakthrough in the quest to generate clean electricity from bacteria.
Findings published today show that proteins on the surface of the bacteria can produce an electric current by simply touching a mineral surface.
The study has therefore found for the first time that it is possible for bacteria to lie directly on the surface of a metal or mineral and transfer electrical charge through their cell membranes. This means that it is possible to tether bacteria directly to electrodes – bringing scientists a step closer to creating efficient microbial fuel cells or bio-batteries.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia are working with a marine bacteria called Shewanella oneidensis.
They created a synthetic version of this bacteria using just the proteins thought to shuttle the electrons from the inside of the microbe to the rock.
They inserted these proteins into the small capsules of lipid membranes such as the ones that make up a bacterial membrane.
Then they tested how well electrons travelled between an electron donor on the inside and an iron-bearing mineral on the outside.
Lead researcher Dr Tom Clarke said “We knew that bacteria can transfer electricity into metals and minerals, and that the interaction depends on special proteins on the surface of the bacteria. But it was not been clear whether these proteins do this directly or indirectly through an unknown mediator in the environment.”
Ireland extended an incentive program for clean energy projects by two years to give developers more time to complete their developments.
Projects operating before the end of 2017 will be eligible for the second Renewable Energy Feed-in-Tariff program, compared with 2015 previously, according to Pat Rabbitte, the minister for communications, energy and natural resources.
The program began last year to spur the creation of 4,000 megawatts of renewable electricity capacity on the Irish grid. It backs small and large-scale onshore wind farms, biomass power stations and hydropower plants of less than 5 megawatts as Ireland seeks to get as much as 40 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020 from about 20 percent now.
Ireland won’t meet its clean power target without boosting the wind energy built to at least 250 megawatts a year from 180 megawatts now, Rabbitte told a conference in Dublin today.
Energy subsidies cost governments from the U.S. to Egypt $1.9 trillion, discourage private investment and help wealthy consumers more than the poor, according to a study by International Monetary Fund staff.
In the report published today that covers 176 countries, the Washington-based IMF advocates a progressive increase in energy prices, accompanied by targeted measures to protect the poorest. Getting rid of subsidies could also help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 13 percent, it estimated.
“Energy subsidies are large and they’re harmful,” Carlo Cottarelli, the IMF’s director of fiscal affairs, said on a conference call with reporters. “They lead to excessive consumption of energy, they absorb public-sector resources that could be used for more useful purposes” and they “benefit the rich more than the poor,” he said.
The report gives the IMF ammunition for what it describes as a “frequent topic of discussion” with member countries. Policy makers’ reluctance to let energy prices increase has stalled or derailed loans in nations such as Ukraine and Pakistan, countries the report shows spend more of their wealth on subsidies than on public health and education.
Emerging markets are not the only countries concerned, according to the report, which singles out the U.S. as the largest subsidizer, with an estimated $502 billion in 2011.
“Advanced economies do not sell energy below supply costs, but they do not tax energy enough,” Cottarelli said.
Advanced economies account for 40 percent of all subsidies, according to the IMF report. China and Russia are the biggest subsidizers in absolute amounts after the U.S., it said.
The fund argues that subsidies can result in lower profit for energy producers, making it difficult for them to attract investors. They also create an incentive to smuggle, even in developed economies as illustrated by Canadians who come to the U.S. to buy cheap fuel, it said.
Still, attempts to let energy prices rise have often been slowed or defeated because of the social unrest that ensued, according to the report, which looks at 22 cases.
“The absence of public support for subsidy reform partly reflects a lack of confidence in the ability of governments to reallocate the resulting budgetary savings to benefit the broader population, as well as concerns that vulnerable groups will not be protected,” the authors wrote. “This is particularly challenging in oil-exporting countries, where subsidies are seen as a mechanism to distribute the benefits of natural resource endowments to their populations.”
State-run Power Grid Corp is developing an advanced grid security system, worth Rs 1,300 crore, as part of efforts to boost the country’s electricity transmission network and stave off possible cyber attacks on the power systems. The proposed security system is part of larger measures being initiated by the Power Ministry to prevent recurrence of events like last year’s massive collapse of grids that affected more than half of country’s total population. According to a Power Ministry document, central transmission utility Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd ( PGCIL) is in the process of “developing a Grid Security Expert System (GSES) at an estimated cost of Rs 1,300 crore”.
The project involves laying of optical fibre network costing about Rs 1,100 crore for reliable communication and control of under-frequency and load shedding, among others.
Already, Power Grid — which manages electricity grids across the country — has a dedicated independent communication network. The grid security expert system would help in having a proper communication/IT network utilising dedicated fibres to avoid any cyber attack on the power system.
Canadian researchers have developed a ground-breaking method which may ultimately enable excess energy created by wind turbines and solar panels to be stored for later use. Two researchers at the University of Calgary, report in the journal “Science” that they have invented a relatively inexpensive way of using rust to act as a catalyst for capturing energy through the electrolysis of water. “This breakthrough offers a relatively cheaper method of storing and reusing electricity produced by wind turbines and solar panels,” said Curtis Berlinguette, associate professor of chemistry at the university. “Our work represents a critical step for realizing a large-scale, clean energy economy,” he added. Simon Trudel, assistant professor of chemistry, said the discovery, “opens up a whole new field of how to make catalytic materials. We now have a large new arena for discovery.” The two researchers have created a company to commercialize their electrocatalysts for use in electrolysers. Electrolysers use catalysts to create a chemical reaction that converts electricity into energy by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be stored and reconverted to electricity for use whenever needed. Catalysts are typically made from rare and expensive metals in a crystalline structure. However, Berlinguette and Trudel deviated from this principle by using common metal compounds or oxides, such as rust, which achieved the same results as more expensive metals.
The Central Electricity Authority said on Saturday that a gas swap arrangement between power-surplus Gujarat and gas-starved Andhra Pradesh will help generate an additional 1,500 MW.
“Gujarat is power surplus and some of the units are being shut down there. Therefore, if these states agree, it is possible to swap gas and help Andhra Pradesh generate about 1,500 MW with a supply of about 6 to 6.5 mmscmd (million standard cubic metres per day),” A.S. Bakshi, Chairperson, Central Electricity Authority, said.
Addressing a press conference here, he said “such a move will be beneficial to both the States. While power consumers in Gujarat will continue to get power, an energy deficit State like AP will be able to produce about 1500 MW .”
States such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh need to agree to such an arrangement, and this is likely within weeks. Thereafter, the Empowered Group of Ministers have to approve the move, he said.
States in the South are unable to access additional power from other regions due to limitations of the grid in transmitting excess power.
Power consumers in Andhra Pradesh will be charged more from April 1 with the Andhra Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission passing a new tariff order for the next financial year.
Tariffs are up for all categories — low tension domestic, commercial and high tension industrial consumers.
The average hike is estimated at around 15 per cent. On an average, for low tension consumers it is up by 58 paise a unit; for high tension consumers, it is up by Rs 1.12 a unit and for LT commercial, it has gone up by Rs 1.13 a unit.
The HT general industrial category tariff has been hiked from Rs 4.80 a unit to Rs 5.73 .
In the domestic category, where consumption is less than 50 units a month, there is no change and consumers will continue to pay Rs 1.45 a unit. This means about 97.4 lakh of the 2.24 crore electricity users will benefit.
For ferro alloy units, the tariff has been hiked by 93 paise a unit to Rs 5.41.
The aggregate revenue by the discoms has been projected at Rs 40,639 crore. The total energy requirement is 89,845 million units.