Sep 7, 2008

Solar Energy and Nuclear Energy in India

Recently, I ran across a detailed discussion on implementation of solar energy in rural India. The article is written by Swaminatan SA Aiyar, who is the author of the popular column/blog SWAMINOMICS. Some of the key points brought about are the land intensive nature of renewable energy [the staggering amounts of land (10,000 acres/week for 1000 MW new capacity)], need for water in dusty desert areas to clean the parabolic solar mirrors, the common lack of trust in government and corporations by villagers and use of "wasteland" (as defined by govt) for use of grazing and travel paths by rural folks. The article in the online news portal times of India, brings forth the need to go ahead of solar technology in India even as the government is trying to get a civilian nuclear deal ironed out (Update: the deal did go through, whew! for now.). One of the listed problems is that the government subsidies or tax breaks are now good only for small scale 5 MW scale solar projects in India. There is not much backing for larger scale (50 MW and above) plants according to the author.
Some of the other issues discussed mention the opposition to nuclear plants in India (Koodangulam, in Tamil Nadu) or the resistance to Uranium mines in Kadappa, in Andhra Pradesh. We do see a big similarity here between the environmental permitting process in the US, resistance to Uranium mines in Virginia, the absence of new nuclear plants in past several years.
Virginia is one of just four states that ban uranium mining. The ban was put in place in 1984, to calm fears that had been sparked by the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor on Three Mile Island outside of Harrisburg, Pa., in 1979.
This is an interesting issue because Virginia in US has 2 nuclear power plants and a nuclear submarine/naval command in Norfolk VA. To make a long story short, in many of these cases, there is not enough exchange of information between the authorities and the people who might be in harm's way if a disaster were to occur. Until that exchange of information and dialogues remain inadequate, large scale energy projects would always have big question marks against them.
Note: I have decided to leave this topic a little open ended in order to encourage comments and informed discussion. In addition, in the next several weeks I would be writing more about the prospects for solar and nuclear energy in India.


TheLight said...

Some interesting points from the article in Indiatimes:
"However, the existence of Indian deserts does not mean there is no land problem. Many past attempts to harness government-owned wasteland for plantations have been stalled by villagers, because what the government classifies as wasteland is used by them for grazing, collecting minor timber and produce, and as transport corridors. Villagers have spurned joint venture proposals in which paper companies offer them a share of the benefits — they simply do not trust the government or corporations."
Interesting. I think there is a societal aspect to this which has not been fully explored.
I agree the conclusions of the article:
"We should let energy shortages be reflected in high prices. This will spur innovations that greatly reduce generation costs, or electricity demand, or both. Let a thousand ideas bloom."

Unknown said...

we may go for the other alternative like hydrogen fuel and green energy....
other than nuclear only hydrogen fuel can feed our energy requirement...but its too risky at a higher technolevel
so its better to concentrate over green energy .... with our so called deserts ...

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