Place in the sun

Alternative energy

alternative_energyMany African countries lack cool weather, water resources, and fertile lands. Countries near the poles are not lucky enough to get heat from the sun all the year round, which is why many of them spend thousands of dollars on “sun holidays”. But both these groups of countries have managed to develop with what they have.

Nepal is always on top of the list of countries with natural resources. The first among them is water. Nepal’s water is suitable for drinking directly or with application of simple distillation methods, and for power generation.

The land is gifted with diverse terrain, from fertile plains of Tarai to snowcapped mountains.
Many countries face severe climatic conditions, and in comparison, Nepal is least affected. But then, we all know what we have, it is what we do with our resources that is more important.

Alternative energy
Early this month I participated in an international seminar organized by Solar Energy Centre of India where representatives from countries like Lithuania, Serbia, Mongolia, Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines and Egypt, among others. The topic of discussion was “Solar Energy Technology and Applications”.

Solar energy is the best alternative to conventional energy sources like fuel, wood, coal and gas. We will need to plant more trees if we are to burn more wood.

The negative impacts of such perishable fuel to the world’s climate are making people think of clean and green energy. Countries like Germany and the US are leaders in green technology.

During the seminar I learned that Thailand has produced 5 MW of electricity just from waste water in one of its towns.

They have produced another 20 MW of power from municipal waste. Laos, a small country north of Thailand, has been exporting energy to Thailand and earning handsome returns. Laos has good water resources and has also developed alternative energy.

Ethiopia, a country in Northeast Africa still mired in a decade-old internal conflict, is courageously looking forward to develop new technologies and cater to its growing energy demands. Ethiopia has already planned to produce 6,000 MW of electricity from a point in Nile River, for which 45 percent construction is already completed.

Our closest neighbor India has not only been involved in research and development on renewable energy for the last 30 years, but now has come up with an ambitious plan. It plans to have about 30,000 MW of electricity from solar energy and to complete installations for 20,000 MW by 2020. Currently it already has about 2,500 MW and a large pool of projects is under construction (mostly in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan).

Nepal’s hydropower potential is estimated at above 90,000 MW, of which about 50,000 MW is exploitable. Unfortunately, due to slow growth, we have been able to tap only about three percent of this potential. Apart from hydropower, we are rich in other alternative sources of energy too. On average, we have about 300 days of sunshine across the nation, with the country average of solar radiation (intensity) measured at 4.7KWH/m2/day. Surprisingly, on average, our hills and mountains can generate more solar power than the plains.

We also have wind pockets across the nation, like the famous Batase Danda east of Mustang valley. Through wind power we can generate more than 3,000 MW of electricity, according to Alternative Energy Promotion Centre at the Department of Environment.

What we lack is a vision to harness available resources. We should aim to export the power we generate. We need to discuss, plan and think BIG. These newer technologies have already been in use for more than three decades and hence are now feely available. They are more efficient and economical. The price of photovoltaic panels to harness solar energy has stabilized, and more efficient systems are available at low costs. Their costs are lower than the cost of generators we use in our businesses and factories.

On average, we have eight to ten sunny hours per day. If we are able to supply daytime power through alternative sources, we can use power generated from reservoirs for nights. Hybrid systems are popular where many resources are available. We can have smart grid systems that feed in energy from water, wind and solar sources. This can solve our energy crisis in no time and also provide energy for the future.

Long-term planning and vision requires bold leadership, and we are hopeful Nepal will progress and become a place to be admired and talked of around the world.

The author is an engineer and consultant of Alternative Energy Promotion

Source : CHINTAN PAUDEL / Republica