BY KULDEEP SINGH
A droplet and a ray is a source of abundant energy. Now there is a mad spate to tap this unlimited source of “lucre’s wad”. A drop of water and a ray of sunlight have a common feature. Both are the source of abundant clean energy. But one of them is cleanest. It can be testified by doing a ‘simple comparative analysis.’
We ignored all positives in the race to fulfil our energy demand. I think the need portion comes at the last, because these sources are unlimited and perennial source of money to the capitalists. So who will make the ‘simple comparative analysis?’ Ironically, government departments are becoming defunct. Result, the state machinery is giving more and more chances to the private industrial houses to make investments. Socialists are becoming capitalists now!
The above said comparison is not an uphill task. In Himachal Pradesh the truth is not hidden from anyone. There is no need of doing big research studies on the plight of mighty rivers like Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, and many other perennial rivulets with gushing flow of water. The big and small hydro projects caused huge damage to flora and fauna at the local level having worldwide impact. The dry river beds have posed a new challenge to the water system of the area. It caused a huge dent to overall climatic conditions of the fertile river basins and adjoining area. Many lush green fertile valleys turned pale. Dynamite blasts to make tunnels has created cracks in the houses of natives and posed a danger of landslides.
Maximum of these projects having capacity of five megawatts to thousand(s) megawatts are installed by private players. Maximum of these entrepreneurs are non Himachalis. Their only concern is minting money through power churning turbines of the hydro power projects. At any cost, they want to convert every droplet of water into electricity. Though, they keep some money from their significant profit for the purpose of corporate social responsibility, but the result of this expenditure is very negligible.
Tree plantation and other social upliftment drives started by these “power players” seem to be a lip service only. Their tall claims of giving employment to localities are flatten on ground zero. There aim is to mint money only, rest of the issues fall in secondary and tertiary list. They are happy if the turbines rotate round the clock and no silt and other impediment comes in their way of spinning money.
Meanwhile the leading countries in the world are shifting from turbines to solar farms. They are focusing on harnessing of solar energy as a reliable and potential source of cleanest energy. The simple comparative analysis reveals that the beauty of this source lies in its quality of being renewable with approximate “zero loss” to environment. The solar farms (group of electricity production solar panels) can be established anywhere on the barren land having sunlight throughout the day. Earlier the cost of its production was very high, but with the advent of feasible solar panels it becomes accessible to countries like India and third world nation. China, Japan, America, United Kingdom, Germany and France are leading in the production of electricity from solar energy.
It’s good for our nation’s exchequer and more importantly to conserve our depleting ozone layer. It will help in making balance in imports and exports of the country. India spend large amount of its foreign exchange on the import of hydrocarbons and crude oil. Harnessing of solar energy is one of the best and viable solutions to reduce dependency on limited sources of depleting hydrocarbons. It will give another bonanza to the future generations by reducing the level of emission of toxic gases in our atmosphere.
There are two types of technology used to convert sun rays into electricity. One is Photovoltaic (PV) and other is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). PV is more affordable as solar panels of different size (portable and big) are used to generate power. These are available at subsidised rates. These panels can be installed on barren land, courtyard, backyard, roof tops, walls and terrace where sun rays are in abundance. In earlier days this technology was very costly, but now a day its manufacturing cost has declined significantly. One can purchase solar panels online (shopping websites) also.
Another is concentrated solar power (CSP). It is also known as concentrated solar thermal. In CSP, solar thermal energy used to make steam and then converted into electricity by turbines. This technology is less prevalent or not affordable by the layman. But the PV tech is more comfortable and can be used by individuals and entrepreneurs at large scale.
The Government of Himachal Pradesh has started different schemes through the governing body called Himurja. Subsidy is provided to install solar water heater and solar street light lamps to the subscribers. National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is also giving many incentives for installing solar panels. But still it requires boost, so that more energy can be tapped from this source of renewable energy. It’s in very initial phase in the state.
Government has to take sincere steps so that its maximum potential can be used. On ground there is an urgent need of spreading more and more awareness regarding use of solar energy. The government of Himachal Pradesh is facilitating to install solar lamps and solar water heaters at subsidised rates, but this scheme had not shown encouraging results. Fillip is required.
Himachal is situated in a very ideal geographical position. Though sun rays falls bit horizontally, but these are constant and sky remain clear for about 300 odd days. Not only this, there is no land constraint here. The government can take the advantage of both windward and leeward sides to install solar panels/cells to tap this energy optimally.
The state government has to charge the battery of its scientists to make new innovation in this realm so that maximum of this clean energy can be tapped. The scientists have to develop cheaper solar cells at more affordable cost so that the self help groups and cooperatives in the state can invest money in it. It will open new vistas of employment to the educated and unemployed youth of the state.
The state government has to conduct a pilot study to identify different locations in the state having potential of solar energy. After completion of this task, the government has to empower the village panchayats and local bodies to establish solar farms to produce energy. It will improve the financial conditions of the village panchayats and create more scope of employment to the unemployed youth of the state.
At national level the Union Government has made a road to tap this source of energy in the year of 2010. The Indian Government has formed National Solar Mission (NSM) in January 2010. NSM set a target of installing projects having a capacity to produce 22,000 MW of electricity by the end of 13th Five Year Plan in 2022. NSM is a major project of Government of India to achieve the targets of National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It aims to boost the production of clean energy and reduce the dependency over fossil fuels. In India coal and crude oil are the major source of contaminating the air. The National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI) advocates the use of solar energy at large level. It promotes to create “energy mix,” so that dependency over one resource can be truncated.
The dream of harnessing clean energy came true on 19th April 2012. On this day the Charanka Solar Park, at 214 MW was commissioned. This park is based on photovoltaics technique. Now more endeavour are continuously on to install such parks. But still miles ahead have to go in this direction. According to one estimate the solar park will save about eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. It will save about 900000 tonnes of natural gas every year.
Himachal Pradesh government has achieved different milestones in the production of hydro power. But damage caused to environment is omnipresent. It’s high time for the state government to opt for the alternative source of energy without compromising with environ. Milestone in the shape of Charanka Solar Park is in front of us. Just the state government has to follow the strides of the Gujarat. It’s the high time to switch, otherwise irreparable damage will occur to our free flowing river system and environment at large. This damage can be curtailed only after creating energy mix.
Kuldeep Singh is Asst. Prof., Department of Mass Communication and Electronic Media In Central University of Himachal Pradesh