Power drive

Print edition : September 07, 2007

A wind mill and solar panels, which can be used to tap wind and solar energy, on display at the Karnataka State Energy Park in Bangalore.-K. GOPINATHAN

Karnataka has turned to non-conventional, renewable sources of energy to supplement its power needs.

KARNATAKA, and before that the princely state of Mysore, has a long history of industrialisation. The first sugar unit was set up in Mysore in 1800. In the 20th century, power generation has driven the industrialisation of the State. Asias first hydroelectric station was established in 1902 at Shivanasamudram on the banks of the Cauvery. The State was also the first to use alternating current for the electrification of Bangalore in 1905, and again the first to have the longest transmission line in the world in 1902 from Shivanasamudram to the gold mines at Kolar Gold Fields, covering a distance of 147 km.

Karnataka was the first Indian State to set up a professionally managed corporation to plan, construct, operate and maintain power generation projects. The Mysore Power Corporation Limited, which was a successor to the Hydro Electric Construction Department of the Mysore state, was set up in 1970. At that time, it had an installed capacity of 746 megawatts (MW). The corporation has now grown into Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL). Today the KPCLs installed capacity has increased to 4,995 MW and is spread across hydel, thermal and wind energy. There are plans to increase the installed capacity by another 4,000 MW.

With revenues crossing Rs.3,388.3 crore in 2006-07, KPCLs profits stood at Rs.412.6 million. It achieved a number of firsts in 2006-07: the highest generation (26,635 million units), highest thermal generation (11,484 million units) and highest annual turnover. KPCL currently has 20 dams and 24 power stations with profiles ranging from 0.35 MW to 1,035 MW. Over the last three decades, KPCL, with its skill development programmes, has been a prime catalyst for key power sector reforms in the State.

It has paid attention to the environment, too. Its 1,470-MW Raichur Thermal Power Station has won the ISO 14001-2004 certification for its environment protection measures. Of KPCL projects now under way, the Bellary Thermal Power Station at Kudatini, Bellary district, takes pride of place. To be developed in two stages of 500 MW each, the first stage will add 3,504 MW of power per annum to the State grid. Construction of Stage I, estimated at around Rs.2,100 crore is nearing completion.

KPCLs Bidadi Combined Cycle Power Plant will be the first gas-based power project in the State. The 1,400 MW combined gas cycle plant will have 4 units of 350-MW capacity each. The source for gas (1.26 MMTPa) is yet to be finalised. Estimated to cost Rs.3,750 crore, the projects physical infrastructure in terms of land and water supply pipelines are ready. Being a base load project located near Bangalore, it will add significantly to the grids stability.

BESCOM, or the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company, is by far the best performing electricity distribution company in Karnataka. The five-year-old company has been growing at a rate of 16 to 18 per cent a year.

In 1999, Karnataka embarked on a major reform of the power sector. It replaced the Karnataka Electricity Board (KEB) with Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL). This was followed by the constitution of the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission in November 1999. In the next phase, the transmission and distribution businesses managed by KPTCL were unbundled, and in June 2002 four new distribution companies were formed to distribute power.

BESCOM is responsible for distribution in Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Kolar, Tumkur, Chitradurga and Davangere districts, together covering an area of 41,092 sq km and serving a population of over 1.39 crore. The company has three operating zones the Bangalore Metropolitan Area Zone, the Bangalore Rural Area Zone and the Chitradurga Zone and 68 lakh customers.

The Bangalore Metropolitan Area Zone alone serves an area of 1,200 sq km and 28.40 lakh customers. BESCOMs transmission/distribution system here is fed by 21,000 transformers (of which 15,000 are subject to energy audit), 764 11-KV feeders and three 400-KV stations, eight 22-KV stations and 68 66-KV stations. Plans are afoot to set up nine 220-KV stations and 31 66-KV stations at a cost of Rs.1,475 crore during the next two to three years.

Currently, the total installed capacity of the transmission system for Bangalore City is 8,200 mega volt amps (MVA). And according to BESCOMs managing director V.M. Chandre Gowda, the capacity will be increased by another 4,350 MVA in two to three years. This is crucial since Bangalores demand for energy is growing rapidly. At present the peak load is 1,528 MW, an increase of over 500 MW from 2002-03. The average energy consumption in Bangalore in a day is 22 million units (MUs), going up to 26 MUs in summer. This is expected to double in 2011-12. To ensure reliable power supply for the sustained industrial growth and other developments in Bangalore, we are investing Rs.500 crore a year. We are adding 2 lakh customers every year. And while BESCOMs total revenue was Rs.5,135 crore in 2006-07, Bangalore Citys contribution was Rs.3,470 crore. Eighty per cent of our revenue goes towards purchasing power.

Formed in March 1996 as the Karnataka governments nodal agency to facilitate the development of non-conventional energy sources, the Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL) has been instrumental in generating over 1,600 MW of power from non-conventional sources. Of this, 872 MW is generated by wind power projects, 338 MW by small hydroelectric projects, 81 MW from biomass and 339 MW through cogeneration.

Besides working as an interface between the government and its various agencies and the community of developers, KREDL investigates the potential of renewable energy sources. It also invites private sector developers to develop proven potential.

According to KREDL Managing Director B. Shivalingaiah, Karnataka has the potential to generate over 11,000 MW from non-conventional energy sources. Even by tapping 1 per cent of the area where wind power can be harnessed we can generate 7,500 MW of power. Two per cent of the area will give us 14,000 MW. The government has allotted 356 [capacity: 7,181 MW] wind power projects, and a further 410 [capacity: 872 MW] have already been commissioned. Seventy per cent of the States area has the potential for wind energy. Entrepreneurs, who were only going in for wind energy projects on the hill ridges, are now starting to take up projects even in the plains.

Most parts of Karnataka get about 300 days of sunshine in a year. Solar heaters, therefore, have also become popular. Karnataka has the largest number of solar heater manufacturing companies in India. A draft proposal that says that the government can, under Section 18 of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001, force urban commercial establishments, including hospitals and hotels, to use non-conventional sources of energy, is pending before the State government, Shivalingaiah said.

He said the Karnataka government would pursue a policy using both conventional and renewable energy. The Government of India has suggested a 5 to 10 per cent component of renewable energy. In Karnataka, this component has almost touched 10 per cent and we are sure we can even go up to 20 per cent. Last year, 32 million units of power were generated from non-conventional sources. A government order has already been issued, it is up to the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission to accept it.

Among the rural renewable energy schemes that KREDL is contemplating is the use of animals to generate power (a pair of bullocks can be used to generate 2 KV of power). Karnataka may even consider investing in wind farms, Shivalingaiah said. We have a cattle population of over 1crore in Karnataka. Utilising cow dung and putting the resultant sludge through a bio-methaneisation process, we can split the methane [CH{-4}], getting four hydrogen atoms, and use this hydrogen. This strength in the backyard can be utilised. All we need to do is buy gas engines, he said.

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