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Taking renewable energy ahead

Feb 16, 2010

A unique project for power generation using solar thermal technology will soon come up at Shive, a village in western Maharashtra that will serve as the harbinger for the nation’s push for renewable energy. In this interview, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, Prithviraj Chavan, elaborates about the ambitious national plan

Huned Contractor: What is the Shive village project about?

prithviraj chavan.jpg

Prithviraj Chavan: The project is being set up as a joint venture by the Union government and Pune-based Thermax Ltd. Unlike the conventional system of power generation, this plant will use solar energy to heat water and the steam will rotate the turbine to generate 250 kW power for the village.

The power generation plant will not be connected to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd grid. Of the total project cost of Rs 15 crore, the Union government will invest Rs 13 crore and the rest will be borne by Thermax. If the experimental project succeeds, the village will be the first in the country to have its own electricity generation plant. What’s more, the Shive model is likely be replicated across the country with public-private partnership.

Huned: How does this connect with the national level plan for energy generation?

Chavan: Of the total number of families in the country, 56% of them are deprived of an electricity connection. The Union government wants to explore all the available ways of power generation and the solar thermal power generation project is a first step towards this.

Huned: How will this generation take place?

Chavan: Thermax will set up aluminium mirrors that will track the sunlight for higher heat generation. Of the three acres of land donated by the villagers, 80% of it will be utilised to set up aluminium mirrors. Thermax will also set up a boiler, which will use bio-waste sourced from the village to produce electricity for a maximum two hours. It will work as a power back-up for the village. The total project will supply a minimum of ten hours of electricity to the village. After commencement of the project, Thermax will maintain and run the project for five years. The government will bear the maintenance cost. A team of 20 people from the company will be deployed at the village for completion of the project.

Huned: What is the central government’s commitment to renewable energy?

Chavan: The central government has allocated a fund of Rs 1 lakh crore to invest in research, development and innovation programmes in the renewable energy sector over the next ten years. The fund will be utilised for pilot projects and to carry out new tests on equipment for power generation. Further, to discourage coal-based power generation projects, the G-77 countries may introduce carbon taxation soon.

Huned:What does the plan comprise of?

Chavan: It will involve 80 laboratories across the country for research and development. The central government will undertake eight technical campaigns including solar-thermal projects, hydrogen cell and photo-voltaic-based electricity generation. The other areas would be wind energy and electricity from tides.

Huned:What about the increasing use of petrol in India?

Chavan:India imports 76% oil of its total requirement every year. This is because of the increasing number of vehicles on the roads. If eco-friendly power can be generated, the government will encourage development of vehicles that run on electricity.

Huned:Will the government also allow private participation?

Chavan:Consider first the fact that today, out of the total electricity generation in the country, 60 % is based on coal. At the same time, 56% of the families do not have electricity. Of the six lakh villages in the country, 1.25 lakh are yet to come on the power grid. Hence, the central government has decided to encourage private players to participate in power generation projects. We are also open to the idea of foreign players.

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