Monday and Tuesday of this week India’s power grid went down leaving 600 million people without electricity in the dead of summer. It happened for a variety of reasons including the fact that in agricultural parts of the country a lot of power was being siphoned off to run irrigation equipment.
Irrigation equipment helping cause a power shortage? Read on.
Rain in parts of India that grow much of that country’s food comes from a seasonal monsoon. This year the monsoon was a poor one. This meant that the hydro-electric facilities that generate a lot of India’s power were short of water and could not generate as much. Less water from the monsoon also meant that farmers had to use more irritation equipment to pump water from underground sources for their crops.
The result? A big extra drain on the country’s overloaded power grid.
But here’s something interesting about this situation. It doesn’t rain much (or at all) in these food growing areas between monsoons. In consequence, the sun shines there every day, all day, during the summer growing season. This being so, solar-powered water pumps here, not linked to the grid, are a perfect alternative to drawing power from an over-strained grid.
Is this a brilliant and utterly innovative insight from this writer? Of course not. India is already one of the one’s largest makers and users of solar equipment — already installed in very large numbers in the food growing parts of the country. With a population of more than 400 million in rural areas that are often barely or not at all linked to a central grid, localized off-grid solar installations are also in place by the mega-thousand, and their number is growing rapidly.
India, fact, offers a perfect case study of an alternative energy resource (the sun in this case) fast becoming a major part of a country’s energy mix, something that will certainly be hastened by the just suffered grid failure. It has the technology, the manufacturing ability, the need, the investment capital (foreign as well as domestic), and perhaps most important, the cultural affinity with the sun and its gifts, to very soon have solar as one of its major energy components. (The wind, too, but that’s another story.)
Yesterday I was listening to a Public Television discussion about India’s grid failure from two certified experts about India and its power needs. They were asked what has to be done to see that what happened early this week never happens again. They gave learned expert answers, none of which involved solar energy or alternative energy sources of any kind.
That’s the common expert view. That solar and other alternative energy resources are “the future.” Very modest today and destined to grow only modestly in the near future, not only in India but elsewhere as well.
My advice: Pay no attention to such experts. With their charts, their tables, their expert knowledge about things past which is their expert guide to the future, they invariably miss the real energy picture.
The alternative energy future is now. It’s live energy from the sun, the wind, the tides, the geothermal heat of the earth itself, in the process of fast supplementing and soon largely replacing dead and buried energy sources.
This ain’t no evolutionary trend. It’s a revolution. In a world with so much to angst about, this is one revolution that’s a cause for rejoicing.