In 1997, 'Kyoto protocol' says that industrialized
countries will reduce emission of Green House Gases (GHGs) by at
least 5% compared to 1990 levels by the period extending from 2008
to 2012. GHGs are vital because they act like a blanket around the
earth. Without this natural blanket the earth's surface would be
some 30 C colder than it is today. Human activity is making the
blanket 'thicker'. For example, when we burn coal, oil, and natural
gas we spew huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
If GHGs emission continue to grow at the current rate, it is almost
certain that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide will double from
pre-industrial levels during the next century. If no steps are taken
to slow greenhouse gas emissions, it is quite possible that levels
will triple by the year 2100. The most direct result is likely to
be 'global warming' of 1.5 to 4.5 C over the next 100 years. The
most important key factor, the global climate, if altered, brings
in changes over the entire world. The wind and rainfall patterns
that have prevailed for hundreds or thousands of years, and on which
millions of people depend, may change. In a world that is increasingly
crowded and under stress -- a world that has enough problems already
-- these extra pressures could lead directly to more famines and
Consequence to the Kyoto protocol, all the industrial
countries are encouraging development of new renewable energy technologies.
Geothermal energy is gaining importance as alternate source of energy.
Geothermal energy based power production over the world has gone
up from 5800 MW to 8400 MW from 1998 to 1999. Thus all the countries,
except India, have started using geothermal energy to generate power
and support a variety of industries.
Nearly 70% of India's power production is based
on coal due to the availability of huge coal reserves in the country.
Excessive use of this source, without the use of strategies to mitigate
its effects, will have deteriorating effect on the quality of human
life. In another decade, according to the World Bank, emission of
CO2, SO2 and Nx will exceed 1500 million tones, 1900 kilo tones
and 1200 kilo tones respectively. This means CO2 emissions will
be 775 million metric tones per year as compared to 1000 million
metric tones per year produced in the entire European Union! This
may lead to severe droughts, especially in developing countries
like India, and reduce supplies of clean, fresh water to the point
where there are major threats to public health. With global water
resources already under severe strain from rapid population growth
and expanding economic activity, the danger is clear.
Though India has been exempted from signing the
Kyoto protocol, in future it has to be a part of this convention
and reduce emission of CO2- which means reduction in usage of coal
and other fossil fuels.
This is the time for India to launch its geothermal
energy resources programme in a big way to implement clean development
mechanism (CDM). The country has enormous resources, which are lying
untapped. The country has the know-how and technology sources to
generate power and support various industries using geothermal energy.
Future for development of geothermal energy fits in very well under
the above described Kyoto-FCCC. World funding organizations and
developed countries, which are using extensively geothermal energy,
are keen to promote this energy sources to reduce GHGs by India.
Why Geothermal Energy
There is no doubt that the cost of electricity
produced from coal is far less expensive compared with other fuels.
The present day cost of one unit of power is less than a rupee in
the case of coal based power while liquid fuel based power costs
about Rs. 2 per unit and hydro power costs about Rs. 1.50. But the
expenditure spent to meet the consequences (like disposal of fly
ash; treating the coal with high ash content etc) is high which
automatically increases one rupee a unit to several rupees. Now
a time has come to look into those alternate energy sources which
were not viable a decade ago due to non availability of technical
know-how. At present 1.5 percent of total power generation capacity
comes from non-conventional energy sources like wind, solar and
bio-mass. In the next fifteen years, according to the World Bank
report, this energy supply could increase by seven times and above.
Table 1 gives the present status of power production from non-conventional
energy sources Geothermal energy which has a huge potential does
not figure in the table!
Table 1. Power production status of non-conventional
energy in India
|Small Hydro Power
|Solar photo-voltic Power
The reasons for low targets achieved in this form
of power sectors are many. For example, solar photovoltaic (SPV)
is far less economically attractive than conventional technologies.
For, the current estimated cost of SPV modules are around $ 4 to
5 Wp (peak watt). Assuming the cost to decline by 50% in future,
the estimated cost would be around $2.5 Wp which is highly uncompetitive
compared with $ 1.05 for other conventional sources. In the case
of wind power, operational problems in matching demand and supply
exists since the wind velocity is seasonal . The estimated cost
of power produced using geothermal resources is less than Rs. 2
/kWh. Emission of CO2, SO2 by geothermal power plants is far less
compared with conventional fossil fuel based power plants (Figure
1). Thus geothermal is quite competitive and eco-friendly and certainly
improves the quality of lives in India.
Geothermal Provinces of India
Nearly 400 low to medium enthalpy thermal springs
exists in India. These are distributed in seven geothermal provinces.
The surface temperatures of these thermal springs vary from 47 to
98 oC. Total power generating capacity of these provinces is estimated
to be of the order of 10,000 MW. The reservoir temperatures estimated
based on water and gas geothermometers vary from 120 to little over
150oC. These provinces are the sites for commissioning small scale
power projects using binary plant technology. They are also the
best sites for “Direct” application technologies. Direct
application technologies are those where the heat energy is utilized
directly by a variety of small scale industries. Dehydration of
agricultural produce and green house cultivation (food processing
and food production) are two such industries to name, which can
utilize this energy with maximum profits.
Technologies for Small Geothermal
Small geothermal power plants such as binary power
plants can be manufactured and can be operated in remote areas.
Depending on the geographic locations of the areas such plants can
be modified and made site specific. Since most of the resources
which India has is of medium to low enthalpy in nature, binary power
plants are most suited under such situations. The cost of small
geothermal power plants depends significantly on power plant costs,
drilling costs, resource quality and costs of financing. The expenditure
for drilling and developing a geothermal well is "one time
expenditure" and further cost for maintaining the equipment
Finding Geothermal Resources
for Small Scale Projects
An effective, economical exploration programme
is essential to identify resources of sufficient quality in terms
of temperature, depth and chemistry for the development of economically
viable projects. In the case of Indian geothermal provinces, basic
data on the chemical signature of the thermal waters and gases associated
with the thermal waters already exists. An exploration plan for
small geothermal plant sites should pool exploration risks across
many small projects and identify a group of projects that will be
logistically viable when bundled. Small projects cannot afford high
drilling costs, such as $ 1-3 million per well spent during exploration
for large projects. Drilling slim holes for exploration and production
or using smaller more portable drill rigs are promising methods
to reduce costs considerably. Conventional production wells have
a maximum production zone diameter of 8.5 inches with a 7 inch slotted
liner in the production zone. Slim hole, on the other hand have
a production zone diameter of less than 6 inches. About 40-60% reduction
in drilling costs can be achieved using slim hole technology.
Market for Small Geothermal Projects
Access to better energy technology could improve
rural people's lives and small geothermal plants could be one of
those technologies. Rural electricity services can be improved by
installing individual systems, national grids and small mini-grids.
In the case of remote areas where supplying power is uneconomical
due to transmission losses and length of transmission line costs,
small scale geothermal power projects becomes handy. With low per-capita
electricity demands, typical of rural people in our country, this
market may best served by many small generating units rather than
fewer larger ones. Estimates made on other developing countries
(like Latin America, the Caribbean and Philippines) indicate that
at 100 watts per house hold (for lighting), 1 MW plant can serve
about 10,000 house holds. We have similar situation in the hill
states like Himachal Pradesh where small scale power plants are
best suited and are cost effective.
Electric power sector reform is transforming the
potential owners and operators of small geothermal projects from
public utilities to private power producers. Reform is intended
to improve the overall economic efficiency of the electric sector
and may open new opportunities for small geothermal projects in
this more competitive market. Systems for use of geothermal energy
have proven to be extremely reliable and flexible. Binary power
plants are on line an average of 97% of the time, whereas nuclear
plants average only 65% and coal plants only 75% on-line time. Geothermal
plants are modular, and can be installed in increments as needed.
Because they are modular, then can be transported conveniently to
any site. Both baseline and peaking power can be generated. Construction
time can be as little as 6 months for plants in the range 0.5 to
10 MW and as little as 2 years for clusters of plants totaling 250
MW or more. One such binary power plant in operation at Wineagel
Developers geothermal site in California, USA, generating 750 kW
is shown in figure 2. This plant consists of two binary units with
a gross efficiency of 8.5% and a capacity factor of 109%. Several
such plants exists in China across Indian's border. The Yangbajain
Geothermal Power Station in Tibet has an installed generating capacity
of 25 MW ranking 10th in the world
Geothermal Industry Players
in Small-scale Geothermal Market
Companies from USA, Europe, Japan, Iceland, New
Zealand and developing countries will compete for profitable small
geothermal projects in remote areas. If this market develops, the
geothermal industry can provide the relevant technologies and experience
for successful small projects. With the ongoing reforms in power
sector, a large number of independent power producers are entering
the power market over the world. Several major types of contractual
arrangements for private power producers include BOO (Build-Own-Operate),
BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) and BTO (Build-Transfer-Operate).
Figure 2. Wineagel Developers geothermal plant
(2 MW) at California.
Geothermal Energy and Food Processing
'One of India’s proudest accomplishments
has been achieving self-sufficiency in food production and that
the country produces a wide variety of agricultural products at
prices that are at or below world values in most cases'- states
the office of the agricultural affairs of the United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA). The Country's food industry's sales turnover
at the end of the year 2000 was at US$ 31 billion. India’s
food processing industry covers fruit and vegetables (onions, garlic,
tomatoes, potatoes, peas; pineapples, bananas, apples, papaya, grapes
and oranges); meat and poultry; milk and milk products, alcoholic
beverages, fisheries (prawns, shrimps, tuna, cuttlefish), plantation,
grain processing and other consumer product groups like confectionery,
chocolates and cocoa products, soya-based products, mineral water,
high protein foods and other products.
According to the official statistics of the Ministry
of Food Processing, India exported processed vegetables and fruits
worth US$ 2 billion in 1999-2000. India's food exports is about
US$ 6 billion whereas the world total is about US$ 440 billion.
Thus India is one of the world's major food producers but accounts
for less than 1.5 percent of international food trade. Foreign investment,
in food processing sector, after the economic liberalization stood
at US$ 2 billion.
India's total food market is estimated at US$ 70
billion and value added food products would be worth US$ 22 billion.
The total local production in the food processing sector in the
year 2000 is estimated at US$ 1,240 million. India's total imports
is estimated at US$ 400 million of which US$ 120 million are the
imports from the U.S. because the food processing sector is lucrative
for investment. India's diverse agro climatic conditions and also
wide-ranging and large raw material availability throughout the
year are suitable factors for the growth of food processing industry.
In recent years processed food demand has grown considerably- especially
from the middle-east countries. Realizing the potential of food
processing industry, the government of India accorded top priority
to this industry and announced several financial incentives to attract
investors. Hence, there is large scope for U.S. companies to invest
in food processing and packaging sector which is growing annually
at 15 to 20 percent. If such is the situation, then why India is
not able to cash it and be the world's best processed food exporter?
The problem lies in inadequate infrastructure like
cold storage, dehydration facility etc. About 75-80 percent of vegetables
and fruits in India perish due to high water content. This industry
requires about US$6 billion in investment in the next five years
to create necessary infrastructure, expand production and storage
facilities using state-of-art technology to match international
standards. Because of lack of such facilities products worth US$2.5
billion is wasted yearly out of which the farm products accounts
for US$ 1.5 billion.
Using conventional energy to minimize wastage is
expensive today and is going be the same or more expensive in future
with ever increasing cost of conventional fuels.The cost of conventional
fuel makes the finished product very expensive. To compete with
international market and to promote the product in the local market,
the amount spent in such process should be minimum. This can be
accomplished by using the country’s available geothermal energy
resources. To give an example, the table below gives a comparative
statement of cost involved in dehydrating fruits using conventional
energy and geothermal energy.
| APPLE (SLICES)
Courtesy: M/s Eco-Fruit Agro Industry,
Gautimala, Central America: Cost in Rs.
Most food-processing and greenhouse operators over
the world estimate that using geothermal resources instead of conventional
energy sources saves about 80% of fuel costs – about 5% to
8% of total operating costs. Worldwide, the installed capacity of
direct geothermal utilization is about 9000 MW and the energy used
is about 31,200 GWh/yr distributed among 38 countries .
Note: Cost at places are mentioned
in US$ since India has no previous experience in such projects.