Monday, April 5, 2010

A long due rant...

Writing after a long time...

A long overdue rant...
Now a days I find a lot of hoo-halah going on about saving energy for a greener future and all that. They say it is the need of the hour. I don't disagree with them. But there are somethings which are basically wrong in implementing the saving electricity in the current norms. Saving electricity would also mean, not to use it when it is not really needed. I will elaborate a bit on what I mean.

Rich get to eat, the [little bit] less rich do not...

I live in Mumbai, the erstwhile Bombay. Maharashtra is facing an acute shortage of power, they tell us. But Mumbai, being the financial capital of the country, needs to be lighted up, 24x7, 365 times in a year. I am told that people here can pay for the electricity that they use, it is much more needed here. Do they mean people elsewhere in the state cannot pay and they do not need energy? They do pay, and they do need energy too. Then why this bias, against the people who are not in Mumbai. Whereas Mumbai gets an UPS, the Un-interrupted Power Supply, the other cities are getting the IPS, not the Indian Police Service, but the Interrupted Power Supply. Ok. Granted that Mumbai is the financial hub and needs to be powered 24x7, but are people in Mumbai even bothered about the kind of power that they waste. Compare this with 12 and 14 hrs of load shedding in the villages. The entire life cycle of people there is now regulated by the cycle of load shedding. They need to water their farms in the night, as during day time there is no electricity for them to use.

Power in Mumbai is wasted because, they can afford to waste it, they know it has an UPS. In similar logic none of the metros should suffer, but this does not happen. All others except Mumbai suffer.

And what happens in Mumbai, huge billboards, flashing the products of corporate houses are lighted through the night. Why the hell should other common people suffer, in distant lands, so that the corporates can show off their products in the night time. Having the billboards itself is an eyesore across the city. A billboard bathing in flood lights is like poking the eyesore. Just shut the lights off the billboards. This is sheer lavish way of spending the sparse energy way we have. Another similar phenomena is the lighting that is put up on the hotels and shops and the neon signs on the building. Needless to say are the customers moths, who go to neon-lighted stores? And during Diwali and New Year times this particular phenomena reaches the peak. Just get over it.

And the ACs. They say 40% of the total power is consumed by the ACs. Most of the office buildings are dotted with ACs. The more you have better it is supposed to be. Are they must? Throughout the year? Maybe sometimes the heat is unbearable but isn't weather in Mumbai ever good enough that we can just survive on humble old ceiling fan? Many of the so called modern constructions, especially buildings with glass faces are worst of the lot. They just lock the heat, making it a green house, which makes it harder to cool adding to the energy woes. This might be a good design for the Europeans and Americans but for us is it? Since the Europeans were tie and coat, we also do, and it is considered to be elite. Whether it suits our weather conditions or not is another issue altogether, about which few bother...

The centralized AC does not provide any flexibility to the end users, whether they want such conditioned air or not. It is just imposed upon them. The temperature is kept less than what you would find comfortable at 17 or 18 C. Then people who are working inside wear warm clothes; sweaters, jackets, caps and all the woollens. Is this rational? First you cool the place, so much that it becomes unbearably cold, then you put on clothes to get warm again! I was told that at an elite academic institute, the temperatures are so low, that users had to put electrical heaters, below their chairs, in order to be able to work, apart from the woollens and jackets!!


Mighty Magnificent Malls...

They say that so-so mall is the largest in Asia. This one has so-so features, this one has so many stores blah blah blah... To tell you the truth, all the malls I have visited across the country look the same to me. I mean from outside they may have varied designs, but from inside they are all the same. And why shouldn't they be, they all serve just one purpose. Selling. And selling to you. In this case the form differs [at least externally], but the function remains the same. And what do these offer. Well almost all the malls offer the same things. They are statistically similar objects. I mean here and there, there will be variations, but on an average, they are all the same. They are also same for another reason, they are the most obscene wastage of scanty electrical power that we have. The entire mall is air-conditioned, they tell you! What the efff? Just think about how much power must be fed to the AC plant to cool such a huge place. And that too for what? So that some shopkeepers [mostly corporates] can sell their stuff to you! And you are paying the price, by purchasing the items in the mall. Why can't they just keep the shops, air conditioned, that will surely save a lot of energy. Why the hell do you need the corridors, open spaces and the toilets air conditioned? Then they have escalators too. Are all of us too old to climb a few stairs? The normal stairs are hidden somewhere in the huge complex of the magnificent mall. So that they make it a point that you have to use the escalators!
One of the ways in which this can be salvaged somehow is that, each mall must keep one day in a week off. This will surely take some load off the main line.

Another point that I want to make is the sports matches. Why cannot we have all the matches in broad daylight? I think daylight, on a normal cloudless day is good enough for any sport. Are the players afraid of getting sun tan? I don't think so. Just to fill coffers of a few, we are again spending our precious electrical energy on these activities, which can be easily avoided.

Smarter buildings and homes...

We now live in a digital society. By that I mean almost all of us are surrounded by electronic devices. Even if you think you are not a tech freak, which I am, just count the number of electronic devices you use daily. It can be cell phone, a music player, a digital camera, a handy cam, a computer, a laptop. The list will be different for you, but the same story is repeated almost with everyone. Now when you have so many devices, they need power to work. Alright most of them have a rechargeable set of batteries, which you can charge and use. And then for each of these devices, you have an adapter, which you have to put in the mains to use. The mains in India is at 230 V AC, most of the devices, that I use at least, are working at much lower DC voltages 3, 5, 9 and 12 V being the common ones. The adapters covert the AC of the mains line to DC. This is basically a step down transformer with a bridge rectifier. Now what happens to the excess power from the mains? This is just lost as heat to the ambient! How hot does your charger get at times? Now that we have so many devices which require DC power supply, won't it be a logical solution to provide for a DC power line also. This will save so much power from the mains, being just used to heat the adapter. The power requirement [read wattage] of the DC line won't be high. So this need not be even provided by the state. One can have independent inputs for each building. Fixing solar panelson the terrace, and then driving the DC line through these panels will an effective way. The new buildings that are coming up, can be made mandatory to have this structure. This will achieve two goals, as I see it. First one, it will make the load on the main line, by at least some amount. If you just take the cell phones, they say there are more than 10 crore of them in India. Each one of them charges the other day, and this continues throughout the year. Even with a small wattage requirement for charging of just one cell phone, when scaled to a national level, the number is rather large. And then we say we don't have enough power. The second one is that it will make the users independent producers of their own power. The initial cost maybe high, but in the long run, this will certainly pay off.
 Some of the chargers, adapters that I have.

Apart from devices mentioned above, don't think that your regular desktop computer is not wasting any power. Any regular desktop has a SMPS [Switched Mode Power Supply]. These are really devices which are the adapters for your desktop. They take in 230 V AC and convert it to 12 and 5 V DC supply. With CRT monitors it was almost impossible to have a complete DC system for desktop computers. But now with LCD and LED monitors, we can have a complete DC machine architecture. When you are using the normal UPS on a desktop machine, you are triply wasting power. First when you are converting 230 V AC to the 12 V DC in the battery [most of the UPS that I have seen have a12 V DC battery] in the UPS batteries. Secondly when the mains is off you are coverting 12 V DC  into 230 V AC. Thirdly then you again convert this 230 V AC, which you have just now converted from a 12 V DC, to 5 and 12 V DC. Great! And this is how you want to achieve efficiency. Simple solutions to basic problems like these can cause a lot of energy to be saved...


Now I will divulge a bit from what I have said till now. Now the theme is a bit different...

The Problem of Vidharbha...

I come from Vidharbha, the land in the central part of India. The Eastern part of Maharastra. And also the powerhouse for the state. Most of the thermal power plants are in Vidharbha. The plight of people here is the worst. With so many power plants around, the region still faces acute shortage of power. The reason, the rest of the state has to be supplied the power. And mind you most of the ministers of the state are not from Vidharbha, so the people here are in the bottom of the priority list. Just remember the suicide of the farmers and what the state has done about it.
In my last visit I could see a paradoxical situation, which has been etched on my mind. I saw a thermal power plant, burning all its coal, giving out all its steam, producing all its electricity and transfering it all to the main power lines. But... But from where I was standing and watching this huge power plant fully in operation, there was no power. The load shedding was ON. The irony was that one could watch the power being generated in the plant, but it was not for the people whose land, air and water were polluted, it was for the elite people in the West...

5 comments:

Pathfinder said...

hear ... hear .

very pertinent points .

Bond said...

Nice read amit....
great going...keep it up

Damitr Mazanov said...

Thanks!

Adinath said...

Nice post Amit.
I'll get back to u with some issues...

keep it up!

Damitr Mazanov said...

Thanks!!
Sure. Need to elaborate a bit more in terms of numbers for some issues...