Feb 29, 2024
Feb 29, 2024
|India has vast solar power potential, far more than that of generally overcast Germany. With about 300 sunny days (as against 60 of Germany) and about 3000 sunshine hours per year even despite three monsoon months (as against 1500 in Germany) India can produce, estimates indicate, solar (photovoltaic) power enough to outstrip the domestic electricity demand in 2015 by as much as a thousand times, even if the efficiency of PV modules is taken as mere 10%, though currently their general efficiency is almost twice as much.
More by : Proloy Bagchi
|I entirely agree. It seems costs should not be a factor as nuclear power will also not be cheap if a comprehensive view of them is taken. Besides it has its own hazards. What's more, only yesterday TV news channels were screaming about a NSG ban on nuclear trade with India which is yet to sign the NPT. With fpetroleum products becoming progressively costlier and the need to save whatever remains of our forests one feels the choices for the government are very limited. Among the available choices solar power appears to be the best option as it is more plentifully available. The costs will be only in harnessing the sun's energy any which way the experts consider it to be viable. The government has to look sharp about it and has to shed its lethargy in this regard.
|Thank you for your reply; but mentioning the Sahara, the synonym for sunshine, must prioritise utilisation of solar thermal energy, STE, over solar PV generated energy both there and in all equatorial countries, including sunny India. Solar PV module installation in India, as you state, is prohibitively costly and which, in equatorial countries, India included, where due to the inverse square law of radiation, the sun shines much hotter than in northern and southern latitudes, introduces complications, and additional expense, of cooling of solar PV modules from blistering heat that adversely affects efficiency. One can understand therefore the Indian government's cost reservations about solar PV development, which appears to be a cause of bafflement to you, but STE plants, utilising parabolic mirrors and indirect electricity generation from steam, currently being developed in the Sahara, under the Desertec initiative set up last year, including wind power electricity generation using powerful Saharan convection currents, offer a much more viable alternative, and makes efficient use of sunny India's natural tropical resource, the hot tropical sun..
|It's not Germany alone, most countries in Europe are in the process of giving up nuclear power. Switzerland, which has a probability of an earthquake of magnitude 7once in 100,000 years has refused upgrading all their nuclear power plants all except one of which are capable of withstanding such a quake. Italy has been nuclear-free since the Chernobyl accident. It is the hazard of a nuclear power plant that worry people. Even the French, though mostly powered by nuclear energy, have demonstrated against nuclear power and have even demanded a referendum to decide whether or not their country should give up nuclear power. Their contention has been that when it comes to the crunch even the technologically most advanced countries are unable to handle a nuclear disaster. Japan is, of course, an example.
Not only are we not adept in handling disasters we have also to reckon with man-made disasters, such as a terrorist attack. With a neighbouring country to vowing to wage a thousand-year war and to bleed India with thousand cuts, if not more, we are at a more disadvantageous position
One, therefore, feels that nuclear power, besides being risky, is far too hazardous for a thickly populated country like India and, worse, it's going to be too expensive - perhaps as expensive as solar PV power. If that happens to be so, why not opt for the latter?
|If I may comment further, the lesson of Fukushima, if any is to be drawn, is not to build a nuclear power plant in an earthquake/tsunami affected zone (though it was a combination of these factors that destroyed the plant at Fukushima);it is not to stop building nuclear power plants altogether. I was therefore surprised by the populist movement that won the day to close down nuclear power stations in Germany, a country not on a geological fault line and far from the sea. As you extolled German scientific genius, I find it is rather let down by what is a panic reaction. Mind you, good luck to their solar PV energy enterprise. Britain has a vigorous nuclear energy program, where the solar PV energy program is on a populist agenda, entirely at the discretion of individuals to adapt their own homes for use. India is nowhere near earthquake prone as Japan is, and its nuclear power plant sites pose no danger of a Fukushima kind of assault by massive earthquake and tsunami. The main concern, as you mention, is to build nuclear energy installations with 'world class' safety standards, and India is only doing what most other countries in the world, including Iran, are opting for as the most realistic solution for national electricity generation in the foreseeable future. I expect in India too, solar PV energy options for private and commercial use will be available.
|There is a marked contradiction in what you say about poor sunlight conditions in Germany (as compared to India) as a negative factor and the booming solar PV industry in that country. You seem to labour under a misapprehension, in your comparison of sunlight days in the two countries, that solar panels work only in direct sunlight; when the reality is they work only at slightly reduced efficiency in clouded conditions, generally, in daylight, and do not grind to a halt the moment a cloud appears. This explains the success you remark the solar PV industry enjoys in Germany.
|There is just no misapprehension. That solar panels work with reduced efficiency is a well known fact. A light overcast could halve their efficiency, while thick blackish clouds could quarter it. Yet, even the thickest clouds and rain cannot stop the panels from producing electricity as there would still be enough diffused sunlight in the atmosphere for the panels to work. The solar panels just do not stop producing energy in murky weather. That the Germans have become a power to reckon with in solar power industry despite their adverse climatic conditions is by itself a miracle and speaks volumes about their perseverance and scientific genius. That, however, does not detract from the fact that sunny India has an overwhelming advantage in so far as generating solar power because of its far greater number of sunny days. One is tempted to recall that efforts are already under way to harness solar power in the Sahara Desert which has the potential to meet the power demand of a large part of the world. The reason is that in Sahara the sun is hardly ever clouded out.