India’s Bid For An Alternative Energy Boom
India’s massive power grid failure last year ranks up there with the 1965 Northeastern US and Canada blackout and the 2009 massive hydroelectric failure in Brazil and Paraguay in National Geographic’s Pictures: Worst Power Outages. Some 670 million people lost electricity supply in the northern and eastern part of the country in July of 2012 due to collapse of regional power systems. India’s aging power structure is often placed under huge demands and is increasingly incapable of meeting power peak demands. For almost half of India’s population who lost electricity supply last year (accounting for nearly 10% of the world’s population), it’s time for a change.
The failure of India’s power grid last year made headlines and put pressure on the Indian government to address the country’s energy issues. India is heavily reliant on its mega coal plants but is hampered by both supply and economic limitations. In addition, coal fired plants contribute to pollution problems and global warming through huge carbon emissions.
The nation’s great appetite for energy is driving investors, developers, and its government to search for an alternative energy boom that will supply industries and homes with adequate, uninterrupted flow of electricity. The Indian government is bidding on several alternative energy resources to keep its head up above the energy drain quicksand. With so much at stake, both good and bad options are being considered as the potential alternative energy bonanza.
One of these is the government proposal of constructing almost 300 new dams throughout the Indian Himalayas. New York Times Green reports that if completed, the 7,000 – 11,000 megawatt dams will meet 6% of India’s projected national energy needs for 2030 and would double the nation’s hydropower capacity. Proponents of the dams construction proposal say that offsets of carbon dioxide emissions from coal power plants would be an added benefit.
But the dams would destroy ecosystems along the Himalayas and would force millions of residents to be displaced. A reported 130,000 acres of forest are at risk from the proposal which might also push 22 plant species as well as 7 vertebrate groups over the edge into extinction by 2025 should the dams be constructed.
Another potential alternative energy manna could literally be falling on the country 300 sunny days of the year. Solar power is being looked over as one of the biggest alternative energy source available to the energy-hungry country. NGT Green reports outsized ambitions of several Indian states to bring huge megawatts of solar power online within five years. These includes 1,000 megawatts each in Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh as well as a huge 3,000 megawatts in Tamil Nadu. (California is the leading state in harnessing solar power in the US with around 2,000 megawatts.)
These plans can be understandably called ambitious as India produces a little over 1,000 megawatts of solar power at present. India’s central government is aiming for 22 gigawatts of solar power by 2022. Bidding auctions for solar power projects took place in states like Tamil Nadu. In 2011 it has received 5,000 megawatts’ worth of proposals for its modest 1,000 megawatt solar power project. However, payment issues and heavy demands on developers concerning the projects (roughly one year period to acquire land, line up finance, build solar farms and produce solar power this year) has made companies reluctant to sign on. Only 499 megawatts bids were received by this month’s deadline by Tamil Nadu’s energy officials.
A lot depends on India’s bid for an alternative energy boom: carbon emissions reduction, industrial growth, and electric vehicle production and market among others. But equally important as filling the energy needs of its over 1 billion population is how the nation’s choices will affect both itself and the world, both for the present and the future.
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