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Here’s Why Solar Energy Is The Most Sustainable Answer To The Power Crisis

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By Mahitha Kasireddi:

From all the parameters that define a country as ‘developed’, energy is the most indispensable and prerequisite factor. If a country is called developed then it directly implies that it consumes a large amount of energy. Our leaders have laid growth targets to 8% to be achieved in the period 2013-17. The present power generation capacity in our country is far from sufficient. Economic growth cannot be postponed or avoided. We need a renewable and sustainable source of energy. In the past five years, technology has advanced and has proven the practical applications of renewable energy sources such as hydropower, wind power and solar power. From these, lately, solar energy is gaining popularity and attention. Sun is the most abundant and perennial source of energy which we can bank upon forever.

solar-power-energy

In an effort to advocate the use of solar energy, British Scholars Hyderabad Chapter and British Library presented a talk on the 24th of May 2013 in Hyderabad by T.Harinarayan, Director, Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI). Dr. Harinarayana is an internationally acclaimed scientist and professor known for his contribution to this field. He has chaired number of conferences and presented papers worldwide on energy security and conservation. Since the Andhra Pradesh government has recently devised a solar energy policy, he has arrived to Hyderabad with a whole team along with equipment to demonstrate the application of solar energy. In a crisp 20 minute lecture, the professor had thrown light on the energy demand, advantages of solar energy and performance and proposals of Gujarat’s power generation projects. Following is the full text of the presentation.

The total installation capacity in India is 211 GW (Giga Watt) where as other countries are far ahead of us. The distribution of generation country wide is like this — Thermal (coal, gas and oil) – 140GW, Hydro – 39.5 GW, Nuclear – 4.89 GW (approximate values). These power generation units are unable to produce to their full potential. The basic problem is fuel. There is an acute shortage of fuel due to which both coal and gas based thermal power generations have been impacted. Inland plants in the sector had to resort to imports to meet the requirements. The scale of imports is instrumental in driving up coal prices in Australia and Indonesia. The government has failed in ensuring a stable, dependable and cost-effective fuel supply for power generation. It is due to the above events that solar energy is demanding focus.

What is our energy requirement? In the year 2011-12, our national consumption of energy was 215 GW. As estimated by experts, our consumption demand would scale up to 331 GW in the year 2016-17, 510GW in 2021-22, 785GW in 2026-27 and 1207GW in 2031-32 which 6 times more than present day demand. The astronomical figures project quite an alarming situation ahead.

A single solar plant has the potential to generate minimum of 1250GW and maximum of 2000GW per square meter which is absolutely pollution free, safe and environment friendly as compared to thermal and nuclear power plants. India receives a plenty of sunlight throughout the year and we can totally do away with the fuel issues as faced by the thermal sector. The life span of a solar plant is 25 years after which its efficiency would degrade and it requires replacements of the panels.

A country as small as Germany generated 32GW of power using solar energy alone in the year 2012, considering that only the southern part of the nation receives good amount of sunlight. In Germany, the potential to generate power square km varies from 900-1250 GW, far lower than India. Taking into account the vast geographical extent of India we could be highly energy sufficient nation upon shifting to solar energy.

The prospects of using solar power can possibly only increase due to the discovery and on- going research around Graphine, a thin layer of atom of carbon, an excellent semi-conductor and a cheap material compared to silicon. Once this compound finds its use and application, it would drastically reduce the cost. This material can be used to manufacture thin film sheets to spread over the panels. The thin film technology is most economical and efficient as the sheets are flexible, foldable and easy to handle.

Gujarat has stood successful in churning best out of the renewable sources of energy to generate power. This state generates 3000MW of power using wind mills which is also supplied to other states. By constructing solar parks they generated 900MW, three times more than the rest of the country. Gandhi Nagar has been converted into a solar city by supplying 500MW of solar power. Now, Gujarat has undertaken the responsibility to shape five other cities in the similar way. The engineers at GERMI have experimented with two layer solar panels by placing them one above the other, by this the power generation capacity increased by 1.75 times. Further, by placing plane mirrors at the bottom layer of the upper panel and top layer of the lower panel, they could realize a generation capacity of 40,000 watt hour/day to 70,000 watt hour/day. In households today people buy DC motors such as invertors and batteries to save power, which do not run for long. Installing solar power panels is the best replacement to these but off course we have to have more integrated substations for stand-alone panels.

Proposed project by GERMI- “Solar panels along National Highways”. National Highways (NHWs) connect cities and towns and pass through substations, houses and industrial establishments. Compared to other methods, in this, power could be supplied without any transmission loss. The project also has lucrative prospects for engineers to get employment. For example, let us consider the Ahmebadad — Rajkot NHW, the entire length of the highway cannot be put to use. Leaving the water bodies, crossings and thick vegetation we can use about 195.4 Kms. Upon installing solar panels along this length, 229GW of power could be generated at the rate of approximately 1.2MW per Km. In order to maintain the panels, it could require 8 employees per Km. Therefore, 1Km = 1.2MW = 8 employees i.e. for 194.5 Kms about 35344 people could be employed. Also, with cars running on dual fuel coming in to use, a number of charging stations can be installed for hybrid vehicles.

The basic requirement to install a solar plant is vast land. The land that is used to put up a solar plant cannot be used for any other purpose. Hence, we need population free, non- agricultural or waste land. The optimum location for a solar plant would be: proximity to power grid station to reduce T&D loss, away from forest, water bodies and densely populated regions, proximity to end user location again to reduce T&D loss. Solar power plants erected over canals can also help in saving water by reducing evaporation.

Despite the advancement of technology and number of solar energy developers coming forward, this form of energy is unable to be a bigger player. We do not have a clear cut and attractive national solar policy yet to enable private players to invest. Solar developers do not trust government agencies. Lack of large useful land is another impediment. Saving land has been impossible because of the huge illegal amassing by landsharks patronized by Land Mafia. The government has to prioritize and seriously consider solar energy as a solution to the running power crisis. Surveys all over India shall be conducted to check how much land can be utilized in each state for setting up solar parks/plants. Also, a long term energy security policy and solar policy should be legislated so that a public private partnership can be established to meet the power demand for the growth of the economy.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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