India is blessed with an abundance of non-Conventional Sources of Energy like sunlight, water, wind and biomass. The growing need of energy has resulted in the country made dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. The potential shortages of oil and gas due to price rise and over-exploitation of energy which in turn, raised uncertainties about the security of energy supply in future. Moreover, increasing use of fossil fuels also causes serious environmental problems. Hence, there is a pressing need to use renewable energy sources like solar energy, wind, tide, biomass and energy from waste material. These are called nonconventional energy sources. It has the largest programmes for the development of these renewable energy resources.
There is a capacity of about 1, 95,000 MW non-conventional energy in India. 31 % of it is the form of solar energy, 30% in ocean and geo-thermal, 26 % in biomass and 10 % in wind energy.
India is a tropical country. It has enormous possibilities of tapping solar energy. Photovoltaic technology converts sunlight directly into electricity. Solar energy is fast becoming popular in rural and remote areas. The largest solar plant of India is located at Madhapur, near Bhuj, where solar energy is used to sterilise milk cans. It is expected that use of solar energy will be able to minimise the dependence of rural households on firewood and dung cakes, which in turn will contribute to environmental conservation and adequate supply of manure in agriculture.
India now ranks as a “wind super power” in the world. The largest wind farm cluster is located in Tamil Nadu from Nagarcoil to Madurai. Apart from these, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra and Lakshadweep have important wind farms. Nagarcoil and Jaisalmer are well known for effective use of wind energy in the country.
Shrubs, farm waste, animal and human waste are used to produce biogas for domestic consumption in rural areas. Decomposition of organic matter yields gas, which has higher thermal efficiency in comparison to kerosene, dung cake and charcoal. Biogas plants are set up at municipal, cooperative and individual levels. The plants using cattle dung are known as ‘Gobar gas plants’ in rural India. These provide twin benefits to the farmer in the form of energy and improved quality of manure. Biogas is by far the most efficient use of cattle dung. It improves the quality of manure and also prevents the loss of trees and manure due to burning of fuel wood and cow dung cakes.
Oceanic tides can be used to generate electricity. Floodgate dams are built across inlets. During high tide water flows into the inlet and gets trapped when the gate is closed. After the tide falls outside the flood gate, the water retained by the floodgate flows back to the sea via a pipe that carries it through a power-generating turbine. In India, the Gulf of Kuchchh provides ideal conditions for utilising tidal energy. A 900 mw tidal energy power plant is set up here by the National Hydropower Corporation.
Geo Thermal Energy
Geothermal energy refers to the heat and electricity produced by using the heat from the interior of the Earth. Geothermal energy exists because; the Earth grows progressively hotter with increasing depth. Where the geothermal gradient is high, high temperatures are found at shallow depths. Groundwater in such areas absorbs heat from the rocks and becomes hot. It is so hot that when it rises to the earth’s surface, it turns into steam. This steam is used to drive turbines and generate electricity.
There are several hundred hot springs in India, which could be used to generate electricity. Two experimental projects have been set up in India to harness geothermal energy. One is located in the Parvati valley near Manikarn in Himachal Pradesh and the other is located in the Puga Valley, Ladakh.