Pan Global Corporation, a renewable energy technology and infrastructure company, recently announced that its first acquisition candidate, the Project Badyar small hydro-electric station, is nearly a month away from completion of construction. This will be the first of many projects that will allow Pan Global to participate in India’s strong demand for renewable energy technologies.
Project Badyar is based in the state of Uttarakhand, in which over the past decade alone, demand for electric power consumption increased by over five times. About 30% of that demand is due to the consumer sector and experiencing growth due to a rising middle class, but over 40% of that demand is from industry. If you look at that state in the early 2000’s, over 40% of the population was primarily working poor, mainly in the agricultural sector. However, Uttarakhand always had a very high literacy rate in excess of 76% of the population. So, combine low-cost, highly literate labor with attractive tax incentives offered through the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand Limited, and the result is explosive industrial growth. Some incentives structured were on the level of 100% income tax exemption for the first five years, and 30% the next five, and so forth. In no time, sugar cane and rice paddy fields gave way to industrial parks and prefabricated buildings, and manufacturers such as Tata Motors, Bajaj Auto, Nestle, Hewlett-Packard, and many others began to dominate the plains areas of Uttarkhand.
Uttarkhand is also a state that suffered from the ravages of climate change-enhanced extreme weather phenomena. In June of last year, the area experienced a rainfall that was heavier by 375% above the benchmark of an average monsoon season. Combined with accelerated glacial melt, this led to the worse flashflood in 90 years, leading to washed-out roads and bridges, major mudslides, and presumably 5,700 people dead. Environmentalists blamed the national road building program which led to routes constructed in remote areas without any adequate drainage. Many more environmentalists also blamed the rash construction of very large scale hydro-electric projects that involved building major dams as contributing to the disaster by weakening river banks. Large scale hydroelectric power stations typically involve building a dam which interrupts the flow of a river and can cause significant harm to a local ecosystem, and often displace people and wildlife. Small hydroelectric power plants on the other hand have a very low environmental impact and are ideal for small communities. This is one of the reasons why the Alliance for Rural Electrification expects the small hydro-electric market, meaning power stations that produce less than 10 Megawatts, to grow from a $14 billion market back in 2008 to a $38.5 billion market by 2015.
Uttarkhand is itself divided up into 13 districts. Project Badyar is located in the northern most district of Uttarkashi among the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range. There is little manufacturing industry in this district, but as both the Ganges and Yamuna rivers originate in this district, tourism and resorts are a major contributor to the local economy as well as agriculture and forest products. The region has a population over 329,000 putting it on par with the population of the Central American nation, Belize. The annual power output of Project Badyar is expected to be about 27,500 Megawatt hours, which is enough to power 100,000 Indian households in that region.
Not using a large dam to create a massive reservoir of water, water is collected at Project Badyar using what is called a trench weir. Essentially a trench is built across a stream effectively below the bed level of the stream so as not to cause any major obstructions that can impact the ecosystem. The top of the weir is covered with bottom rack bars. Water while flowing over it, passes through the bottom racks and enters into the trench and collected in an intake well located at one of the banks at the end of the weir. The bottom racks consists of heavy rounded steel bars placed parallel to the river flow and prevent heavy boulders and pebbles from entering into the water to be channeled to the power station.
The water then flows into a large desilting tank which basically just uses gravity to let the heavier sediment fall out of the water, otherwise abrasive material in the water would quickly wear out the turbine blades which are rotated to generate power. The water is transported to the power station among a system of pipes referred to as the conveyance line, and is laid out among the contours of the mountains such as not to disturb the local landscape. The water then flows into a sizable forebay tank which regulates the flow before entering a narrower line of piping referred to as the penstock which is placed at a very steep angle to increase water velocity and pressure before hitting turbines in the powerhouse of the electric generation station. Upon leaving the powerhouse, the water is returned to the river via an artificially built canal like structure known as a tail race. As the water is used and not consumed, you have a truly renewable energy source.
Hilly areas like those in Uttarkashi where you have streams of water rushing down narrow steep-sided valleys are ideal for what are referred to as ‘run of river’ type of small scale hydro-electric plants and are the least environmentally damaging. The power generated is expected to go to a local switchyard to a nearby substation and then into the local grid.
Pan Global Corporation also plans to enter the geothermal energy market as well as the solar power markets in India. Over two-thirds of India’s power comes from burning coal, and although India has a large coal mining industry, they only meet 72% of their coal needs, meaning the rest has to be imported from Australia and Indonesia. This has resulted in coal prices tripling over the past three years. On top of that, the heavy usage of fossil fuels has managed to put India on par with China in terms of having the world’s worse air quality. Combine those facts with the need to cut the carbon foot print to attempt to mitigate global warming/climate change, has motivated India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to set aggressive targets to shift off of fossil fuels and to up the country’s target of photovoltaic electricity production capacity by 30% for 2014. Pan Global is definitely in the right place at the right time.
For more information on the company, visit www.panglobalcorp.com
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