– Benefits of replacing conventional electricity generation with renewable energy sources

A few years ago, the country’s power generation depended mainly on coal-fired super power plants where each cluster could generate up to 4,000 to 5,000 MW. The electricity produced would then be sent to the national grid for large-scale distribution. There are several super thermal power plants of this type across the country. In factories like these, coal is burned to produce heat, which then boils water, generating superheated steam. This steam would pass through a turbine, connected to a generator. Finally, the electricity produced would be routed to the switchyard to be transmitted to the electricity grid. In some power plants, oil or natural gas is used instead of coal. However, coal, oil and gas, all three, are dwindling resources.

The combustion of coal, oil and natural gas is accompanied by waste combustion gases, which are harmful to the environment because they contain toxic chemicals. In addition to polluting the environment, up to 60% of heat is released into the atmosphere, contributing to rising levels of global warming. About a ton of CO2 is emitted per MWh (Megawatt-hour) of energy. This means that a 2000MW super thermal power plant would generate 2000 tonnes of CO2 every hour, i.e. 48,000 tonnes of CO2 everyday. Thermal power plants have an installed capacity of 234 GW, including 124 GW of coal-fired power plants. This can release up to 2976 thousand tons of CO2 per day in the atmosphere.

Schematic diagram of a power plant based on solar PV energy – Totally pollution-free

There are several renewable energy sources that nature provides in abundance. Several countries have already planned to take measures to limit the damage. Many countries have decided to switch to large-scale solar and wind power plants and to replace the old Super thermal power plants.

At present, solar power generation in India is 40.09 GW. The contribution of Karnataka (7.1 GW), Telangana (5 GW), Rajasthan (4.4 GW), Andhra (3.47 GW), Gujarat (2.654 GW) and the rest of the other states is significant. The renewable energy target by 2022 is 175 GW, of which 100 GW is for solar, of which 40 GW is reserved for solar and off-grid connected to the rooftop grid. In addition to this, work is underway for the establishment of several ultra mega solar power plants on the PPA model in many states with investments from the private sector.

To support fluctuations in solar and wind power generation that vary with time and season, utility scale energy storage systems are installed along with ultra mega solar/wind farms for grid stability .

The use of renewable energies not only replaces conventional energy, but also reduces it by up to 40%. Indeed, solar and electric systems are more efficient than conventional fuel-based systems.

The improvement in efficiency is around 50% of traditional systems. Using renewable electrical energy is 80% efficient compared to fuel-based combustion systems, which are only 40% efficient. No fuel may be used in raw form. It must be treated before use. Then it must be transported to the point of use. It takes a lot of effort and energy.

Conversion to renewable energy could create several million more permanent full-time jobs than lost jobs. Among renewable energy sources, the use by 2050, according to one study, is expected to be around 30,000 TWh by solar, 9,100 TWh by wind and 800 by hydroelectricity. The contribution of other forms such as waves, geothermal energy, tides, etc., would not be significant.

By: Challapalli Narayan Rao is a former scientist at Nuclear power Corp. ; former Project Engineer, NDDB; former Senior Technical Director NIC; former Advisor, ASA NGO; currently acting as IT consultant, MP Pollution control board.

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