Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why not think of alternate power solutions?

The world is teetering on the verge of a massive power and fuel crisis. Fossil fuels are running out faster and faster, as the world gets more and more cars dependent on them. A massive percentage of power production is thermal, and also dependent on fossil fuels like natural gas and other petroleum products. Put all that together, and consider the number of barrels of oil being pumped out of the earth, and its easy to see that the world is soon going to run out of fossil fuels.

Then what happens? Will the world be forced to do without heat, power, transport? Do we go back to fireplaces (if there is any wood left to burn by then), horse drawn carriages and candles? It’s a distinct possibility that we will. And the day is not too far off either. Everyone is talking about it; scientists have been warning people about it for decades; environmentalists are up in arms; and nothing is changing. One of the biggest downsides of fossil fuels, apart from the fact of their limited supply, is the amount of pollution caused by their use. With the planet already groaning under the weight of the effluents put into the earth, air and water by humans everyday, the last thing the human race needs is more pollution.

The world over, and definitely in India, there is precious little attempt being made to find or create alternative sources of energy. Some countries have tried their hand at harnessing renewable sources of energy, like solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal power, but most have been very backward in this regard. In India, the few attempts at moving away from river valley projects and thermal power stations have been towards nuclear power. None of it has been even close to adequate.

Vast tracts of the country are not even on the grid, while the areas which are, are grossly undersupplied. And things look all set to get much worse this summer. There just isn’t enough power to go around. Cities are getting bigger, but supply isn’t. Once power rich states like Maharashtra look forward to 4 hour power cuts a day in urban, and up to 12 hours a day in upcountry areas. And the situation can only get worse unless massive changes are incorporated. And nuclear power does not look like the answer. It’s expensive, dangerous to produce, and creates a lot of pollution, and it hardly ever works as it should!

Why, one wonders, doesn’t a country like India seriously consider alternate sources of power? Tropical country, with endless summers, enormous coastline, bays, constant winds, and huge amounts of sunlight, it’s obvious that India is the perfect candidate for extensive solar, wind and tidal power harnessing projects. There are large tracts of open but infertile ground where nothing grows, and there are deserts, both perfect locations for large solar power harnessing projects. More than half the year is summer, and temperatures often go as high as 45 degrees Celsius, with no end of clear skies and sunny days. In short, this is the ideal land for large scale experimentation with solar power.

Similarly, the long, almost endless coastline is perfect for both wind and tidal power harnessing! The mountain ranges, the ghats, run parallel to the eastern and western coasts, offering innumerable high sites ideal for windmill projects. These alternative sources are cheaper than the traditional sources in the long term, it is possible to produce them on a large scale, they are clean, and endless! A certain amount of initial investment, no larger than that for nuclear power stations, and you have renewable, green and efficient sources of power. Makes sense for a power starved nation I think. Why on earth doesn’t anyone take a serious look at this?

1 comment: