Monday, November 26, 2012

Invest in Solar Power for the Next 30 Years

After the roller-coaster year that First Solar has had, it may be time to reassess whether or not the company and/or the entire solar industry is even viable.  In full disclosure, I am a big fan of solar as a concept.  However, it remains to be seen if the wide-scale implementation of solar power is economically feasible.  If there is one company that has what it takes to make it work, it is First Solar.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Was it such a flop show?
THE just concluded spectrum auction, dubbed by the Congress as a flop show and a failure, reveals a different picture on closer scrutiny. The government has mopped up Rs 9,407.64 crore from 22 licence areas against Rs 9,280 crore from 122 licence areas in 2008. The market conditions were vastly different in 2008 from conditions today. The Sensex breached the 21,000 mark in January 2008; it was hovering around 18,500 at the time of the current auction. Unlike now, there was no dearth of international funding to the telecom industry in 2008. With a view to proving wrong the CAG loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore and to help the UPA government recover from the taint of allotting spectrum in 2008 at a price arrived at in 2001, telecom companies had formed a cartel and only five participated in the current auction. In 2008, more than 575 companies queued up for spectrum, creating a virtual stampede when telecom minister A Raja came out with his first-come-first-served policy to favour a few pre-chosen companies. Spectrum is not a perishable commodity. It can be re-auctioned when market conditions improve. The government’s expectation of Rs. 40,000 crore from spectrum sale this fiscal was unrealistic. In 2008, India had only 234 million mobile subscribers with a market potential of 800 million. Nearly 20 million mobile subscribers were added every month during 2008-09. After the mobile subscriber base touched 900 million with a tele-density of 70 per cent as against 24 per cent in 2008, the subscriber growth has reached a plateau, making substantial investment in the industry risky.  The average revenue per user has also come down from Rs 316 in 2008 to Rs. 97 per month now.
It is shameful to see Congress ministers vilifying the CAG to save their face. Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari went to the extent of mockingly asking, “Mr CAG, where is the 1.76 lakh crore?” Had auction been held in 2008 when demand for 2G spectrum was at its peak, it would have fetched much more than the Rs 1.76 lakh crore the CAG estimated as presumptive loss. It ill becomes the Congress to blame the CAG and the Supreme Court for the spectrum mess the UPA government finds itself in. The Supreme Court direction on cancellation of licences and disposal by auction was solely to undo the illegality in procedures followed by the government in allotting 2G spectrum in 2008. Now is the era of 3G and 4G spectrum and the demand for 2G would naturally be low. Yet, garnering Rs 9,407.64 crore for 22 licences against Rs 9,200 crore for 122 licences is no mean achievement. Of the 22 telecom circles the country was divided into, there were no bidders in three ~ Delhi, Mumbai and Karnataka ~ as a result of cartelisation. There was no bidding in Rajasthan because of the high base price discovered during the auction of 3G spectrum in 2010. Failure to achieve the target does not mean that the CAG’s estimated loss was incorrect or that there was no corruption in the allotment of 2G spectrum.

SINCE India began its nuclear programme in the 1950s, it has aimed to tap the ample thorium reserves that lie within its borders. Construction is finally set to begin on a reactor that will produce electricity from India’s most convenient fuel for the first time. But with a checkered past on the subject, the country’s promises of a new dawn for nuclear rest on shaky ground.
Last week, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) put out statements to the Indian press touting the safety of its new Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR), which could break ground near one of the country’s conventional reactors next year. Once operational, they claim it will fulfil the vision of India’s 60-year-old blueprint for thorium-based nuclear energy production, generating 300 megawatts of power from thorium more safely than nuclear energy has ever done. NPCIL’s technical director, Shiv Abhilash Bhardwaj, told the press that such reactors will be so safe they can be built right inside major cities like Mumbai.
The rhetoric is familiar: for decades, thorium has been repeatedly held up as a cheap, clean way forward for nuclear power. Compared with the uranium-based fuel cycles, thorium produces far smaller amounts of radioactive waste elements – including plutonium, which remains dangerous for tens of thousands of years.
But the reality is that there’s nothing new about the AHWR, says Craig Smith, a nuclear engineer at the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Smith says Bhardwaj’s claims that the reactor will be safe enough to build in urban areas simply do not stand up. The reactor will convert thorium to uranium-233, which then splits to produce heat and other elements with short half-lives. If an accident were to occur, this dangerous mix of chemicals could be released into the environment.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Depleted Uranium Contamination: A Crime against Humanity


Arun Shrivastava | Global Research
This article is part of a longer essay on Depleted Uranium weapons, nuclear reactors and their environmental health impacts.
In this article the long term consequences of radiation contamination from unilateral aggression of the US and NATO countries on South and West Asia are discussed. Afpak region is being bombed daily and the cold blooded murder of nine kids out of the seventeen killed is just a small blip when billions are done in.
The world needs a public trial of political leaders for war crimes and genocide. 
Depleted Uranium or DU [1] encased bombs that have been used since 1991 by US and NATO forces knowing well that the use of DU weapons is illegal being weapons of mass destruction [WMD] and amounts to War Crimes. These weapons were used in Gulf War 1 against Iraq, then in the Balkans and later, after 9/11 events, in Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa, Libya and now being used in Drone bombings in Pakistan.
“When 20 years ago I stated at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro that a species was in danger of extinction, I had fewer reasons than today for warning about a danger that I was seeing perhaps 100 years away.” Fidel Castro Ruz – March 21, 2012
Area Deniability Weapon
‘Depleted Uranium’ has nothing depleted about it: when this potent hard metal hits a solid surface like concrete or a battle tank, the temperature at the point of impact reaches over 40000C and turns the projectile into uranium oxide gas. These gases are picked up by the wind and carried all over the world creating vast areas of secondary contamination. Based on the population within the contamination map [Map 1], over 35% of India’s population received a heavy dosing of DU aerosolized uranium nano particles within months of the start of Afghan and Iraq wars. [2]

Sunday, October 14, 2012

3 cable layers assigned to restore power to stricken 4 reactors of the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) were exposed to severe radiation. In itself it was no news. What else one would expect when one is entering a nuclear facility severely crippled by the giant tsunami that rolled over in the wake of magnitude 9 temblor and the subsequent series of events it triggered. Plant operator TEPCO is under severe pressure to contain the radiation that has already rang alarm bells not only in Japan but across distant shores. Japanese workers may have accepted to commit themselves to this “harakiri”, one would be forgiven if it was so construed, for greater good of Japanese society. But when Tepco was forced to admit that the workers had not tested the radiation levels before commencing work on Thursday, 24thMarch, and had stepped into highly contaminated water – two of them without protective boots -; the initial concern should have turned into severe censure. FDNNP “accident” was elevated to level 6 on International Nuclear Events Scale (INES) of IAEA almost 10 days earlier, just below the 7 rating given to the worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl. Safety and security considerations should have been highest on the minds of TEPCO team in charge of containment and clean up. Yet such shoddy work practices were followed in a nation famed for its technological prowess and sophistication. But what may be explained off as “human errors” triggered by pressure of a grave crisis, actually are embedded in the character of TEPCO Company in particular, and nuclear power industry in general. Just 10 days before the earthquake and tsunami, TEPCO had admitted to faking repair and maintenance records.  Japan’s regulatory watchdog, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), concluded 2 days later : “Long-term inspection plans and maintenance management were inadequate, The quality of inspection was insufficient. We can’t say that the lapses listed in the report did not have an influence on the chain of events leading to this crisis”. Obviously, the Regulator is soft, Operator is lax and not diligent; and given an opportunity, suitable environment, & sufficient time, Human Errors are bound to happen. Already efforts are underway around the world in the Nuclear Industry to distance itself from “these acts” by branding them as “Japanese” in nature the way Chernobyl was “Soviet”. But there is nothing location specific about them; they all flow from the “nature of atom”.
Japanese health regulations stipulated an upper limit of 100 millisieverts (mSv) per year of radiation exposure as legal limit. This was so until the tragedy struck. TEPCO during the course of last week decided to raise the “acceptable limit of exposure” for its emergency teams to 150 mSv and regulator NISA went a step ahead to relax it to 250. Were such revisions mandated by some fresh medical evidence that showed increase in human tolerance to radiation? Did the new “limits” have some “quantitative” sanctity or sanity? Or were these simply a matter of expediency? The two hospitalised men, reportedly exposed to ? rays, were part of a six member crew that was assigned to restore power to cooling pumps, and had to wade in a puddle, whose radioactivity was later measured at 400 mSv/hour and air above at 200 mSv/hour. It has not been made explicitly clear in any report, if the new exposure limits are on per year or per hour basis. Radiation levels on the other hand are all being reported on per hour basis. This would mean that at least these six workers have already received their yearly maximum dose of radiation during the few hours they would have spent working on their task. It seems that nobody knows or wants it to be known as to the grave radiation risks facing the crews at FDNPP facility. If standards are changed in such cavalier manner, then it indicates a battlefield like do or die situation. But has anyone heard this being admitted to in so few words? Crisis of such grave proportions should have seen swarm of robots assigned to do these extremely hazardous tasks, which have been pushed onto mortal beings. Didn’t one hear the fabled Japanese prowess in robotics or for that matter of technologically most advanced power in the world, USA, who boast of such Sci-Fi gadgets like “Disaster Recovery Vehicles” that can operate in a nuclear or biological warfare scenario? If these are not needed now, then when would their time come? Or are these hi-tech wonders simply fictional?

Nix nuclear. Chuck coal. Rebuff biofuel. All we need is the wind, the water, and the sun
Article Courtesy: IEEE Spectrum

We don’t need nuclear power, coal, or biofuels. We can get 100 percent of our energy from wind, water, and solar (WWS) power. And we can do it today—efficiently, reliably, safely, sustainably, and economically.
We can get to this WWS world by simply building a lot of new systems for the production, transmission, and use of energy. One scenario that Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson and I developed, projecting to 2030, includes:
  • 3.8 million wind turbines, 5 megawatts each, supplying 50 percent of the projected total global power demand
  • 49 000 solar thermal power plants, 300 MW each, supplying 20 percent
  • 40 000 solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants supplying 14 percent
  • 1.7 billion rooftop PV systems, 3 kilowatts each, supplying 6 percent
  • 5350 geothermal power plants, 100 MW each, supplying 4 percent
  • 900 hydroelectric power plants, 1300 MW each, of which 70 percent are already in place, supplying 4 percent
  • 720 000 ocean-wave devices, 0.75 MW each, supplying 1 percent
  • 490 000 tidal turbines, 1 MW each, supplying 1 percent.
We also need to greatly expand the transmission infrastructure in order to create the large supergrids that will span many regions and often several countries and even continents. And we need to expand production of battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, ships that run on hydrogen fuel cell and battery combinations, liquefied hydrogen aircraft, air- and ground-source heat pumps, electric resistance heating, and hydrogen for high-temperature processes.

One of the main arguments put forth by the nuclear lobby – for its rapid expansion push — in India (and China, Korea, Phillipines etc …) is that the expanding electricity demand has to be met for continued ‘ fast economic growth’ to “lift people out of poverty”, which will require rapid expansion of electricty capacity in our countries. And if we dont want to depend ‘totally’ on dirty coal, then nuclear energy is the “only option” , as alternatives are either not widely available (like wind in India) or not cost competitive (solar).
Each part of this composite argument is fallacious –

The nuclear lobby in India has been pushing nuclear energy as safe, clean and a solution to the country’s energy requirements. Now, going even a step further, it is undermining the potential India’s renewable energy sources which is alarming and unacceptable.
The news about Dr. Anil Kakodkar (Ex-Chairman, Dept. of Atomic Energy) heading India’s solar missions is disturbing and flies in the face of democracy and fair policy-making. Renewable energy sources are the main competitor to nuclear power. Even today, the total energy produced through renewables is much higher than nuclear, despite the miniscule R&D budget and subsidies that it receives in comparison to nuclear energy. Dr. Kakodkar, in particular, is known for his discouraging views on solar energy.
The recent issue of the Current Science journal has published an article by S P Sukhatme, Ex-Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, titled Meeting India’s future needs of electricity through renewable energy sources. Without mentioning the author’s nuclear links, the article first charts outs an inflated energy requirement for the country, then underestimates the potentials of renewable energy and concludes with strongly supporting nuclear energy !
Here is a rigorous rejoinder by Shri Shankar Sharma, a leading energy policy analyst, demonstrating how renewable energy sources, in a decentralised energy environment, are best quipped to provide a reliable, safe and more equitable solution to India’s real energy requirements.

Future electricity demand and the critical role of renewable energy sources

Shankar Sharma
Power Policy Analyst
Many attempts have been made to project future electricity demand in the country. One such recent effort in the article “Meeting India’s future needs of electricity through renewable energy sources” by Dr. S. P. Sukhatme of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay is based on many assumptions, which appear to be unrealistic. The weakness with many of such articles is that they tend to base their inferences on just the dry statistics without really appreciating the context/message behind those numbers.
Assumptions/ inferences in this article, which seem to defy sound logic are:
  • the assumption that a projected per capita electricity consumption of 2,000 kWH/annum for India is very frugal;
  • the assumption that a per capita consumption of 2,000 kWH/annum would be needed to ensure adequate level of Human Development Index (HDI) in the country;
  • the inference that the projected total electricity production requirement of 3,400 Billion Units (or TWH) by 2070;

Rachel Thompson | NEW LEFT PROJECT
The Uranium Weapons Network and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons(ICBUW) are hoping that a precedent will be set in disarmament politics when the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly meets this month.
The UN First Committee discusses and proposes resolutions to the plenary session of the UN General Assembly.  This year a resolution sponsored by the Non-Aligned Movement will table a resolution concerning depleted uranium.  ICBUW have been advocating for the text to include a request that states take a precautionary approach to depleted uranium (DU) weapons.
The use of depleted uranium (DU) in weapons has proved controversial from its development in the 1960s through to the present day.
During the earliest stages of its research and development programme, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) discovered that DU released a chemically toxic and radioactive dust that contaminated areas they fired it into. The UK has since used uranium weapons in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, without a full understanding of what effect this contamination would have, but knowing that it was a potential hazard to human health and the environment. The concerns surrounding the use of DU would only be investigated once it had been fired and the damage was done. Where research has been undertaken, it has been retrospective and has focused largely on the impact on veterans, not on civilians who are faced with chronic exposure. The DU issue is complex – its use raises issues of environmental and social justice and post-conflict peace building and redevelopment. However, the main users, the UK and the US, have consistently sought to frame it as a question of military capability in order to diminish humanitarian and environmental concerns . Over the years scientific research has emerged showing that DU has the potential to cause cancer, damage DNA, lead to birth defects and that it can contaminate soil and groundwater. Yet, user nations state that there is insufficient evidence of a causal link between such problems and its use, when in fact they should put humanitarian concerns first and adopt a precautionary approach.  This article will examine the impact of DU and show that it is hypocritical and wrong for the UK’s to continue to use DU munitions. When there are scientific uncertainties regarding the damage caused by a weapon, those uncertainties should not be used as an excuse for continuing its use.
What is Depleted Uranium?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Green Energy Ohio Tour 2012: Horticulture Business Relies on Solar, Wind Energy for Year-Round Food Production

Ohio horticulturalist and renewable energy advocate Barry Adler is harnessing solar and wind energy to provide all the heat and electricity he needs to provide a steady supply of herbs, greens, and other vegetables to local restaurants and shops. RainFresh Harvests, near Plain City, Ohio, is one of 170 businesses, homes, schools, parks, and other properties on 2012′s Green Energy Ohio TourColumbus Dispatch reports.
The solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and small wind turbine Adler has installed provide enough clean, green renewable heat and power year-round to meet the needs of RainFresh Harvest’s two greenhouses and other buildings. Being off-grid, its sustainable horticulture operations had a stable power supply even when powerful storms cut grid power supplies in the area this summer.

Green Energy Ohio Tour Showcases State’s Robust, Vital Green Energy Sector

Adler has invested some $40,000 to install Rainfresh Harvest’s renewable power and heating systems. Doing so has enabled him to combine “the two things he loves into one business: horticulture and renewable energy,” Columbus Dispatch’s Mark Williams reported. “It’s a good feeling to know I’m not polluting in the process of using energy,” Adler was quoted as saying. “I wanted to create a model to be as sustainable as possible and have the least impact on natural resources.”

Clean Technica (

Solar, Wind Power Used to Grow Greenhouse Crops

Oct. 8, 2012

Mark Williams

By growing food in environmentally sensitive ways with electricity and heat from the wind and sun, Barry Adler combines two things he loves into one business: horticulture and renewable energy.

"It's a good feeling to know I'm not polluting in the process of using energy," said Adler, owner of RainFresh Harvests, which grows herbs, greens and other vegetables for local restaurants and stores.

RainFresh, located near Plain City, is one of more than 170 sites on this year's weeklong Green Energy Ohio Tour that wraps up today. The tour features businesses, homes, schools, other buildings and parks that have incorporated solar panels, wind turbines and other devices that reduce energy consumption.

"I wanted to create a model to be as sustainable as possible and have the least impact on natural resources," said Adler.

He showed about 50 visitors yesterday how a wind turbine and solar panels create electricity and heat to run his two greenhouses even when power is out elsewhere.

He also pointed out how construction materials used in the greenhouses make them more energy-efficient and help him grow food year-round.

Adler, 60, has about $40,000 invested in his renewable operations, but he said the cost of the panels and turbines has fallen since he installed them several years ago, and the equipment has improved.

The bigger greenhouse, which has nearly 1,500 square feet, has panels on the roof that generate electricity and heat, and batteries inside the building to store power.

Adler's business is not new to the tour, but plenty of others are this year as interest continues to grow, said William Spratley, Green Energy Ohio's CEO.

The tour includes drugstores and a stable with solar panels. Churches are part of the event, as are homes with solar panels that create electricity for electric cars, Spratley said.

Among those touring Adler's business was Yang Xing, 31, of Wooster, who is doing postgraduate work in environmental science at Ohio State University.

"I'm trying to see if there is an opportunity to get some hands-on experience," said Xing, who was particularly interested in methods Adler uses to grow food.

Kevin Malhame, a founder of Northstar Cafe in Columbus, has been buying arugula, basil, oregano, mint, specialty vegetables and other food from Adler for eight years.

"The greens and herbs are fantastic," he said.

That Adler uses renewable energy to power his operations is a plus for Northstar, Malhame said. " That makes it more valuable to us," he said. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Grow a Solar Energy Garden

Getting energy from the sun is a great idea. However, installing solar panels house-by-house is slow, costly and cumbersome, and downright inefficient if the goal is to bring solar to the masses.
This problem troubled Paul Spencer after he built his own uber-efficient, custom solar home near Aspen, Colorado in 2004. The engineer and serial entrepreneur wondered how he could replicate his home many times over across the United States.
Out of this problem came the community-owned solar garden – or at least a version pioneered by the Clean Energy Collective, a Colorado company founded by Spencer in 2009. What is a solar garden? Think community vegetable garden, where everyone in the neighborhood tends a common plot and then shares the harvest. Except here the crop is solar energy, often produced by ground-mounted photovoltaic panels on an open piece of land or large rooftop.
Variations on the solar garden idea are catching on in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico and other states. Click here to continue