Power and potential


    JAN 03 –

    Power_EnergyOn any list of countries with abundant natural resources, Nepal seems to find a place. Take water resources, which is suitable for drinking directly from the springs or with the application of simple distillation methods. Such resources are an asset when it comes to power generation from running water (micro hydro) or tapped from a reservoir (hydropower). The land itself is gifted with terrain from the plain fertile fields of the Tarai to snow-capped mountains that shine all round the year, luring tourists from across the world. Many countries face severe climatic conditions and weather difficulties but comparatively, Nepal is least affected. We are all aware of what we have but what is more important is what we do with all that we have.

    Lessons from across the globe
    Early this month, I participated in an international seminar in North India along with participants from 18 countries from across the globe. Representatives from countries like Lithuania, Serbia, Mongolia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Egypt, Tanzania, Algeria, Nigeria, Oman, Syria and Sudan. The topic of discussion for three weeks was ‘Solar Energy Technology and Applications’, organised by the Solar Energy Centre of India.
    Solar energy has become the best alternative energy to switch to from conventional energy sources like fuel, wood, coal or gas. Countries like Germany and the United States are leading the world in developing this green technology, along with wind power, to switch over to green technology and avoid the use of diminishing resources like fuel and coal. We will need to plant more trees if we are to burn more wood but negative impacts on the world’s climate has now made people lean towards clean and green energy.
    Thailand, a developing nation, has produced a 5MW of electricity from the wastewater of just one of its municipal towns. It has also produced another 20MW from municipal waste and garbage. Laos, a small country north of Thailand, has been exporting energy to Thailand and earning handsome returns. Laos, like Nepal, also has abundant water resources and has developed alternative energy. Ethiopia, a country in Northeast Africa, which has not been able to come out of a decade-old internal conflict, is also courageously looking forward to develop new technologies and ways to cater to growing energy demands. Ethiopia has already planned to produce 6,000MW of electricity from a point in Nile River, for which 45 percent of the construction has already been completed.
    Our closest neighbour, India, has not only been working on research and the development of renewable energy sources for the past 30 years but has now come up with an even more ambitious plan. India plans to generate about 30,000MW of electricity from solar energy. It plans to complete installations generating 20,000MW by 2020. Currently, it has already banked about 2,500MW and a large pool of projects is under construction, mostly in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan with others following.

    Utilising potential
    Nepal’s hydropower potential is termed at above 90,000MW, of which about 50,000MW is exploitable. Unfortunately, due to slow growth in development, we have only been able to tap about three percent of our hydro potential so far.
    Apart from hydro, we are also very rich in terms of other alternative sources of energy. On average, we have about 300 days of sunshine across the nation. The country average for solar radiation (intensity) is measured at 4.7KWH/m2/day. It might sound surprising but our hills and mountains can actually generate more solar power than the plains.
    We also have wind pockets across nation, famously the Batase Danda, located east of the Mustang valley in Northwest Nepal. The potential for wind power is in excess of 3,000MW, according to ground data collected by the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre.
    What we have lacked so far is the vision and plan to develop the technologies available. We should be able to generate interest in developing power not just to satisfy domestic demands but with an aim to export it. This would earn Nepal much money for future development. These alternative technologies have already been in use for more than three decades and hence, are now freely available. They are more efficient and economical in terms of affordability. Photovoltaic panel prices have reached saturation and more efficient systems are now available at very low cost. Just compare the cost of these alternative technologies with the cost of burning fuel and the diesel generators running to keep our businesses and factories alive. We can also compare and contrast with the cost of energy being cut off from the grid up to 14 hours in a day.
    We have on average eight to 10 hours of sunlight in Nepal. If we are able to supply enough daytime power requirements through alternative sources, reservoirs can store the required water for efficient energy generation at night. Hybrid systems are already popular where there are resources available. We can implement smart grid systems that feed in energy to the grid from both water, wind and solar sources. This would allow us to manage our energy crisis in no time and head for further growth in energy developments for our growing population.

    Paudel is a consultant at the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre

    Source :CHINTAN PAUDEL /  Ekantipur