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Advertorial | August 2014

Boiling Point

Geothermal energy, despite its vast potential as a source of clean and interrupted energy, has never really taken off in India, though there are a few projects in the pipeline.

According to a report released by Pike Research in 2013, a total of 454 geothermal projects are currently underway across the globe. A total of 64 countries have active geothermal projects (with surface exploration already underway), a significant improvement over the 30-odd countries with active geothermal projects just a few years ago.

Senior Research Analyst Mackinnon Lawrence from Pike Research says in the report: ¨An estimated 18.5 GW of geothermal power capacity is in the pipeline.¨ Sounding a note of caution, Lawrence adds, ¨Although a substantial portion of this capacity will never reach fruition, it´s clear that both project developers and investors have recognised the vast energy potential of geothermal resources, signaling a likely expansion in geothermal activity over the next decade.¨

The Geothermal Energy Association estimates that the global geothermal market is growing at annual rate of around 4-5 per cent. According to the entity, the US has about 1,000 MW in the pipeline and 3,400 MW nameplate capacity for a total of 4,400 MW. Indonesia has 4,400 MW of planned capacity additions announced in the pipeline alone, and a few countries in Central and South America like Chile, Argentina, Columbia and Honduras, have significant potential, but have just about started identifying the locations for pilot geothermal projects.

The Geological Survey of India has estimated the geothermal potential of the country to be of the order of 10,000 MWe based on the existing bore holes in some of the geothermal provinces like Puga, Chhumathang, Manikaran in the Himalayas and the west coast of the Indian peninsula. Geologists have identified the Himalayan regions as having immense geothermal potential. In a conference held in June at Leh in Jammu & Kashmir, Geo Moore, a geologist from the University of Utah said: ¨The hottest and best known of the geothermal systems are in Jammu and Kashmir, which form part of the northwest Himalayan ´geothermal province´ that extends through Nepal and Tibet.¨ Moore feels that Puga, which is located at the intersection of the Indian and Tibetan plates in Kashmir´s Ladakh region, has the greatest geothermal potential on the Indian subcontinent. He told the conference: ¨A 20-MW geothermal plant at Puga could save three million litres of diesel burnt annually in the region at a cost of approximately $2 million.¨

But geothermal energy, despite its vast potential as a source of clean and interrupted energy, has never really taken off in India, though there are a few projects in the pipeline. As of 2013, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal are in the process of establishing geothermal power plants with a capacity ranging from 3-5 MW, Chhattisgarh is looking to exploit the underground hot springs at Tatapani and the State´s Renewable Energy Development Agency and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) have signed a Memorandum of Association for construction of the geothermal project.

Gujarat, a State known for its focus on developing alternate sources of energy, is also looking to set up a geothermal plant. In 2013, during a conference held at Gandhinagar, Central government spokesperson had told the audience that the Centre was in the process of drafting a policy on geothermal energy (See Box: The Government´s Geothermal Plan).

Despite the potential, geothermal thermal energy has really not been a happy hunting ground for most Indian players, though a few are planning to develop this energy source by tying up with global companies. Thermax, the Pune-based industrial giant, plans a pilot 3 MW project in Ladakh´s Puga Valley in tandem with Iceland´s Reykjavfk Geothermal. GeoSyndicate, a venture incubated at IIT Bombay, has carried out detailed geological, geophysical and tectonic studies on several thermal provinces. Geochemical characteristics of the thermal discharges and reservoir temperature estimations have been carried out by this entity in collaboration with IIT Bombay, GSI, NGRI, CNR Italy, and GNS New Zealand.

Earlier this year, NTPC tied up with the Geological Survey of India for the Chhattisgarhproject. ¨A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between NTPC and Geological Survey of India for preparation of DPR (Detailed Project Report) for (the) geothermal power project at Tattapani,¨ NTPC said in a statement.

Tata Power is another player looking to tap into this field. In an earlier interaction with Power Today, Anil Sardana, Managing Director, Tata Power said: ¨Geothermal energy has the potential to generate and deliver sustainable supplies of clean, renewable base load. Various geothermal prospects have been identified in the Himalayan belt, Cambay basin and central India.¨ However, Sardana also identified the problems facing this emerging technology. ¨This sector has its share of challenges that act as a major bottleneck in developing the industry. The main disadvantages of building a geothermal energy plant mainly lie in the exploration stage, which can be extremely capital intensive and high-risk.¨

As of now, even as major geothermal projects are currently underway across the world, it would take some more time for the technology to really take off in India.

Market Growth: Geothermal Energy

  • About 530 MW of geothermal power came online globally in 2013 to bring the global installed capacity to just over 12,000 MW. That is the most megawatts to become operational in one year since 1997.
  • In total there are about 12,000 MW in the pipeline and about 30,000 MW of geothermal resources under development. Of those 12,000 MW (about 16 per cent) or 1,900 MW amount of planned capacity additions are under construction in 14 countries.
  • If all geothermal power plants under construction are completed on schedule the global geothermal industry could reach about 13,450 MW of nameplate capacity by 2017.
  • About 10 per cent of global projects have drilled injection or production wells and /or are actually in the process of constructing a power plant. Another 50 per cent of projects are in the exploration stage meaning the first exploration wells were drilled, project funds have been acquired, and/or significant knowledge of the geothermal resource has been attained.

Areas With Maximum Geothermal Potential

  • Himalayan Province
  • Deep sedimentary basin of Tertiary age such as Cambay basin in Gujarat
  • Areas of Faulted blocks - Aravalli belt, Naga-Lushi, West coast regions and Son-Narmada lineament.
  • Radioactive Province - Surajkund, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • Cratonic province - Peninsular India
  • Source: Geological Survey of India

The Government´s Geothermal Plan

  • The objective of the programme is to assess the potential of geothermal resources in the country and to harness these resources for power generation and for direct heat applications for space heating, greenhouse cultivation, cooking, etc.
  • Projects undertaken by the Ministry in the past have demonstrated the applications of geothermal fluids for small-scale power generation and in poultry farming and greenhouse cultivation.
  • Magnetotelluric (MT) investigations to delineate sub-surface, geo-electric structures and evaluate their geothermal significance have been carried out by the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad in Tatapani geothermal area in Chhattisgarh and for Puga geothermal area in Ladakh Region, Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Similar studies are in progress for geothermal fields in the States of Surajkund in Jharkhand, Badrinath-Tapovan in Uttaranchal and Satluj-Beas and Parvati Valleys in Himachal Pradesh.
  • National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), with the support from the Ministry, has prepared a feasibility report for development of geothermal fields in Puga, Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir and Tatapani geothermal field in the Surguja district of Chhattisgarh.

-DEVARAJAN MAHADEVAN

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