Emerging Renewables

Recent developments in geothermal, hydrogen and tidal energy

While the focus of renewable energy development in the country has largely been on the wind, small hydro, biomass and solar segments, new technologies such as geothermal energy, hydrogen energy (fuel cells) and tidal energy are also now claiming attention. Although these technologies have a long way to go before they become mainstream, government initiatives and investments could help in tapping their potential. A look at the developments in these emerging segments in India over the past year…

Geothermal energy

India has about 10,600 MW of geothermal power potential, largely concentrated in Cambay Graben in Gujarat, Puga and Chhumathang in Jammu & Kashmir, Tattapani in Chhattisgarh, Manikaran in Himachal Pradesh, Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, Rajgir in Bihar and Surajkund in Jharkhand. The government is taking initiatives for research, development and demonstration of geothermal technology in order to harness these resources. As a first step, it is planning for demonstration projects to assess the technical viability of geothermal resources at select locations before proceeding to commercial models.

Considering the possible use of geothermal energy as a substitute for heat and energy, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has formulated policy guidelines for exploring and developing these resources. A draft policy for the development of geothermal resources was released in June 2016. It proposes to harness 10 GW of geothermal energy by 2030. The ministry is also encouraging collaborations with world leaders in geothermal energy like the US, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico and New Zealand to accelerate the deployment of geothermal energy projects. Such collaborations can provide the necessary technical support and help mitigate the exploratory risk for setting up such projects in the country. Although the capital cost involved in setting up a geothermal power plant is high due to costly exploration and drilling processes, producing power from it is cheaper than from other renewable energy resources. Moreover, unlike in the case of wind and solar, geothermal energy is not intermittent and is available throughout the day. Keeping these benefits in mind, it is imperative for the government to focus on developing geothermal energy as a viable energy resource.

Tidal energy

India is one of the potential locations in the world where power can be generated from tides. As per the MNRE, India’s total identified tidal energy potential is about 9,000-7,000 MW in the Gulf of Khambat, 1,200 MW in the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat and about 100 MW in the Gangetic delta in the Sundarbans, West Bengal. However, an appropriate policy framework is needed for the development of tidal energy.

Recently, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) decided to set up a tidal energy plant at the confluence of the Thane creek and Ulhas river in India. For the purpose, TMC has collaborated with the Korea Water Resources Corporation (K Water), a South Korean company. The proposed tidal energy plant can generate up to 8 MW and supply clean energy to around 8,000 households. However, the country still has a long way to go. The existing policy framework fails to incentivise new technologies to enter the market, which leads to high costs for setting up tidal farms.

Hydrogen energy

Hydrogen is a clean fuel and an energy carrier that can be used as a possible substitute for liquid and fossil fuels in a broad range of applications. It can be used in internal combustion engines directly or after being mixed with diesel and compressed natural gas, and directly as a fuel in fuel cells to produce electricity. However, the segment is still at the research, development and demonstration stage in India. A key development in the segment has been the release of a draft report on hydrogen and fuel cells by the MNRE in June 2016, wherein the ministry laid out the roadmap for the adoption of hydrogen as a fuel. To this end, an overall budgetary provision of Rs 7.5 billion has been proposed for the fuel cell development programme over the next seven years (up to 2022-23). A budget of Rs 1.2 billion has been allocated for research and development in the segment, including comprehensive research on hydrogen production, fuel cell development and transportation through hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. However, for adopting hydrogen-based systems on a large scale, it is necessary to undertake extensive research for addressing the challenges related to its storage and leakage.

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