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  1. It is good to have Dan posting in the blogosphere again. I also remember he made a few appearances on The Atomic Show from time to time. His thorough knowledge of the state of the nuclear industry is quite valuable.
    ——————————————————

    As a separate issue, I ran across this news item, and found it interesting.
    http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/bihar-village-dharnai-nitish-kumar-clamours-for-real-electricity/1/375733.html

    Some of the members of a village in India are not happy with the 100 kilowatt solar powered “micro-grid” recently installed for their village. They would prefer to have “real electricity”.

    1. It’s a pity that the article mentioned nothing about the reasons that the solar-PV system was not “real electricity” to the villagers.  Were they demanding refrigerators and televisions, and the PV system was inadequate to power them?  Those details would be very illuminating, but the article leaves us in the dark… just like the villagers after their transformer blew and people stole the wires.

      1. Here is a little more on the Dharnai micro-grid:
        http://greenpeaceblogs.org/2014/07/17/solar-energy-microgrid-powers-india-village-bihar/

        The village population is reported as “more than 2200”. That is about 45 watts of power per person. Since the sun only shines part of the time, the average consumption is going to be less. Part of the power is also used to run water pumps and street lights.

        It is admirable that Greenpeace wants to provide electricity to poor villages, particularly if this village now has a better supply of drinking water. However, the reaction of those villagers who are less than satisfied with 100 kW of solar shows they understand other people have access to more reliable 24/7 electricity.

        It is ironic that if the village ever does get access to “real electricity”, it will most likely be coal-fired power. This is probably not Greenpeace’s intention. Greenpeace certainly would not want it to be nuclear generated power either.

        1. 45 W/capita nameplate is around 9 W/capita average.  After the water pumping and streetlights, that means charging everyone’s cell phone (which they may already have a PV panel for), a few LED lights in houses, radios and such.

          No refrigerators.  No industry (there’s probably not enough to power more than a few sewing machines, let alone anything heavier).  No wonder they want “real electricity”.

        2. @Pete51, Engineer-Poet

          Real figures for the project are available here:

          http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/Greenpeace-supports-solar-power-energy-independence-for-village-in-India/

          This is a pilot project and is expandable. Centralized bulk energy delivery via coal, nuclear, and imports from neighboring States are unavailable to region, have been very expensive, slow to develop, and unreliable (elsewhere in India). So rather than go without energy, GP has partnered with a non-profit cooperative founded in Bihar (CEED) and Basix (a rural development organization with 3.5 million clients and operating in 17 States). Over 40% the community gets its livelihood from agriculture, the remaining from labor and remittance.

          Goal of project is not to create an industrial base in Bihar overnight, but rather reliable electricity service to households and businesses (1 – 3 lights, charging stations to 30 watts, street lighting), 24/7 power to irrigation pumps (when needed), street lighting at night, and expanding local skills and human resource capacity (“Develop a business model for the operation and maintenance of such systems based on a hands-on understanding of the resources required and relative costs”). At the present time, “Appliances like heater, iron, geyser, cooler, air conditioner, cooker, toaster, etc., will not be allowed to be used under this project.”

          By the sounds of it, if someone wanted to build a centralized coal or nuclear based energy supply system to Bihar, some of the residents would appear to welcome it. But for whatever reason, such a system has been difficult to finance and build, and has not happened to date (and local businesses, leaders, women, youth, clinic, school, training center, local bank, energy and equipment suppliers, maintenance professionals, and others have not benefitted from it).

          Micro-grid is operated on a non for profit basis, and has energy costs of 16 cents/kWh for basic service, 22 cents/kWh for businesses. According to GP, India has “limited coal reserves … [and has seen] a 50% rise in the cost of international procurement of coal for Indian power producers since 2004. In the last 10 years power generation prices have risen by more than 300 per cent.”

          Microgrid was built at a cost of $497,700 US and includes “280 solar panels, 224 batteries, 15 inverters; 10 x 3-horsepower water pumps.” It took three months to install.

          1. The number of these systems is quantitatively is very small. El is correct that there are whole regions…ok no ‘regions’ but areas where millions live that are not served by grid electricity and can’t be for a real long time.

            So the plans are thus:

            India is building 6 reactors right now and plans for…35 more. A very detailed article on this is available here:

            http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-G-N/India/

            They plan to get 25% of their energy from nuclear by 2050. Plans change, can go down…or up (see China which is again raising their deployment plans for nuclear).

            So these little mirco-grids that can be powered for a few hours a day are not a bad thing. They are only ‘bad’ if one is satisfied with maintaining energy impoverishment with only the minimal amount of power available for some of the day. Yes, the can be ‘added to’ as El suggests but who is going to foot that bill? they are never added to. They are generally boutique shows that can make everyone feel good. But they are not serious, not really.

            They can be used in supplement to the centralized power grids being expanded throughout India. They have an intense rural electrification prgoram that combines all forms of energy, not unlike China, which is well in advance of India’s and which all forms of energy are being built and implemented on a mass scale (hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, etc etc).

            In 10 years or so as SMRs become deployable and in 20 years, ubiquitous, then all bets are off. Villagers *everywhere* will be forming rural electrical cooperatives (as they have in the US) and demanding small 30MW to medium 300MW reactors from the central and state gov’ts. They will be *robust* 24/7 real micro-grids and expand them to create truly regional, and distributive, nuclear grids. I suspect at that time wind and solar will go the way of windmills in the US when within 20 years 40 million farmers switched from wind water pumps to full on electrical ones.

            Until then I’m glad these villages are receiving *something* to give them a taste of what’s to come.

            David Walters
            IBEW 1245, ret.

          2. EL

            Did you miss the following part of the article?

            The last time Dharnai got electricity was at the height of Maoist violence in 1981. The power supply to the village got snapped after a transformer installed in the village got burnt. The cables were also subsequently stolen away. Since then, its residents lived in perennial darkness.

            The villagers are upset because some of the older residents remember when they had the same kind of electricity that many of us have always had – the kind that arrives via a thin wire and comes out of a wall socket whenever we want it.

            It’s the kind into which a customer can plug a refrigerator to prevent daily trips to purchase perishable items, the kind into which a customer can plug a washing machine to prevent the need to pound clothing with rocks and the kind into which a customer can plug a stove or a hot plate in order to avoid spending their day looking for twigs and branches with which to light a fire to cook a meal.

            Light bulbs are just the most visible use for real electricity. They are certainly quite useful, but those other uses are the ones that do more to improve people’s lives and give them more freedom from drudgery.

            How much would it have cost and how long would it have taken to simply restore that wired connection to the established grid? How far away is the nearest reasonable connection point? I don’t know, but I’d bet that half a million in non-profit NGO money would have gone a long way towards making it happen. Of course, that would not have provided the same kind of publicity for Greenpeace as installing a visibly intrusive solar system that will require local maintenance labor for an inadequate quantity of power.

          3. So these little mirco-grids that can be powered for a few hours a day …

            @David Walters

            Where do you get this nonsense? Micro-grid provides reliable 100 kW energy on 24/7 basis. 280 panels provide plenty of surplus electricity to meet electricity demand during the day and charge 224 batteries, and provide “around-the-clock electricity to more than 2,400 residents, 450 homes, and 50 commercial operations, including two schools and a health care facility.” Please read the reference material so that you are much better informed.

            In 10 years or so as SMRs become deployable …

            Ugh!

            How much would it have cost and how long would it have taken to simply restore that wired connection to the established grid? How far away is the nearest reasonable connection point? I don’t know, but I’d bet that half a million in non-profit NGO money would have gone a long way towards making it happen.

            @Rod Adams.

            Yes … it doesn’t seem like you know. Transmission costs run around $1 million/mile (here). Do you think there is a power plant 1/2 mile from the community currently withholding it’s product and unwilling to generate revenue from local electricity sales for the last 30 years? With energy shortages in high demand centers in India, and the business case for running power lines to low demand areas being very small, it seems many of these regions are getting left behind.

            When village elders look back on the last 30 years, I’m guessing it’s rising poverty, lack of electricity, and increasing economic insecurity that they remember most clearly. It seems this project has done a great deal to address these gaps and the long standing absence of new investment in the region. “Better light has aided in better education. Better lighting has led to better safety for women. Powered by the micro-grid, Dharnai has managed to run 30-year-long distance in mere three months” (here).

            For a relatively small pilot project, reversing 30 years of history (and significantly improving local conditions for public safety, business entrepreneurship, education, health care, and training in finance and maintenance of local energy supplies) sounds like a pretty good place to start. And if successful, pilot projects scale to larger and more expansive plans (with declining costs for renewables, and available local financing shown to be up to the task). Waiting for someone else to solve the problem, and another 30 years without power, hardly sounds like a viable or attractive plan for the future. If the perfect is the enemy of the good, you guys are clearly quite focused on delivering the bad news.

            1. @EL

              Though we are way off of the original topic of the post, in this side chat, the topic is a wire to carry electricity on a scale to compete with a 100 kw solar micro-grid to supply in a small village in rural India. The link you provided to support your claim of $1 million per mile for a wire discussed the capital cost of building a 230 kilovolt (kv) transmission line in a developed area of the United States.

              Do you believe your reference provides a good basis for cost estimation? If you indicate you do not understand the question, I suggest that will speak volumes to the knowledgable readers who inhabit this forum.

          4. … the topic is a wire to carry electricity on a scale to compete with a 100 kw solar micro-grid to supply in a small village in rural India.

            @Rod Adams

            No … this is not the topic you introduced in your reply. You are talking about restoring service to an extensive area (not just one village), presumably over long distances (20 miles or more), and providing electricity beyond charging stations to thousands of households running energy intensive appliances (laundry, cooking, air conditioning, etc.), and more extensive business and industrial applications as well. There is a reason why this has been cost prohibitive for the last 30 years, and why pursuing more immediate and achievable local alternatives (beyond remaining in the dark) was the better approach. Failing to acknowledge this is not advancing the issue.

            Costs don’t appear to decline much for a 60 kV or 115 kV line (here). Bihar has a population of 103 million.

  2. Sorry for creating this side discussion and diverting conversation away from the original topic. I think we can agree Dan Yurman is a great guy, and I look forward to reading his new blog. I already have it bookmarked and in my daily blog read list. His latest post about new nuclear power plans in Saudi Arabia is worth reading. Lots of sun in Saudi Arabia, too, but they want to go with nuclear power in a big way.

    I also think this discussion about the Indian village is important to expose some of the realities of living in a solar powered world.

    EL says this “Micro-grid provides reliable 100 kW energy on 24/7 basis.”

    Actually, no, it doesn’t. Somebody at Greenpeace set up a web page for the Dharnai project.
    http://www.dharnailive.org/
    The link says 2450 kWh of electricity was generated in the last week. If the solar panels operated at full capacity, 24 hours a day for a full week, they would have generated:
    (100 kw) x (24 h/d) x (7 d) = 16,800 kWh
    But since they only generated 2450 kWh, the capacity factor for the past week was 14.6%.
    What EL says is reliable 100 kW of power is actually more like 14.6 kW average. Divide that by the population of the village and each person’s share is quite small. There are probably some small children who are not going to need access to electricity right now, but even taking that into consideration, this 100 kW system is nowhere near what is required to bring these people up to something resembling a modern standard of living.

    What Rod wrote about this being a publicity project for Greenpeace seems true. What do the leaders of Greenpeace think about India’s nuclear power program? It would not surprise me if they were organizing protests intended to shut down new nuclear projects.

  3. @EL,

    “Micro-grid is operated on a non for profit basis, and has energy costs of 16 cents/kWh for basic service, 22 cents/kWh for businesses.”

    The price of the Dharnai solar microgrid power is so low because Greenpeace has swallowed the capital costs rather than recouping them through electricity tariffs. The 16-22 cents/kwh is for operations and maintenance only. If the villagers had to pay capital costs as well their tariff would likely double.

    It says so in the Greenpeace media manual, p. 31: “The project is not designed to make profits (as there is no element of subsidy or financial incentive included in this—the project is completely funded by Greenpeace). The tariffs are designed to meet the operation and maintenance costs for the micro-grid to be sustainable from a long-term perspective.” Translation: Our wealthy Western donors provided the capital to build the micro-grid, and they don’t expect to be paid back. The villagers only have to pay for O and M.

    That interpretation is supported by the manual’s cost estimates and tariffs. On the same page the manual estimates capital costs for the micro-grid at 2.75 crore rupees (about $500,000), while, separately, “total maintenance and operational cost will be around 13 lakh (1,300,000 rupees) each year to maintain and operate the system.” Greenpeace’s technical specs factsheet puts the micro-grid’s average daily output at 350 kwh, or 127,750 kWh per year. Dividing 1,300,000 rupees by 127,750 kWh per year gives a per-kWh O and M cost of Rs 10.2/kWh, right in the middle of the project’s tariff range of Rs 9.5 to 13 per kWh. (That’s your 16-22 cents per kwh.) What this means is that essentially all the tariff revenue is going to fund O and M with nothing left over for capital costs, which are being paid for out of Greenpeace charity.

    Of course, the micro-grid’s capital costs, at 5000 per kw installed, are huge. Using the NREL LCOE calculator and assuming a 3 percent discount rate, a 15 percent capacity factor and a 35 year pay-back period (very favorable terms), the per kWh capital costs would be about 18 cents per kWh. Adding that in to the announced tariffs, which only cover O and M, would double the rates, putting them in the range of 35-40 cents per kwh.

    That’s incredibly costly electricity, especially for a poor country like India, and it casts the financial sustainability of the Greenpeace project into doubt. If microgrids are to scale, those capital costs will have to be paid not by Greenpeace charity but by impoverished village ratepayers. India’s grid is so dysfunctional that people may be driven to such exigencies. But it seems like a better effort than solar microgrids would be to address those dysfunctions, build the grid to reasonable scale and standards of efficiency and bring on centralized power plants—a much better way to supply cheap and reliable power.

  4. @ EL:

    “Micro-grid provides reliable 100 kW energy on 24/7 basis.”

    As Pete51 has pointed out, (and Greenpeace’s tech spec factsheet confirms) the actual average production of the microgrid is 14.6 kw. But that’s the average, not the trough. The question is, can the microgrid and its storage capacity supply even that trickle reliably during stretches of cloud-cover? Probably not.

    The Greenpeace media manual evasively addresses that issue on p. 22. It asks, “Will the generation of electricity and hence supply be affected during monsoons or cloudy days? If yes, how will be the promise of round-the-clock electricity met?” [sic] Here’s the answer in its entirety:

    “Yes, it is a challenge to supply round-the-clock electricity during prolonged rainy days, cloudy days and foggy season in winter. But we are checking the demand and supply management and will store the electricity in the battery bank when the generation is low. We will also regulate the supply and usage of electricity. Greenpeace, Basix and CEED will also look at ways of complementing the electricity production through bio-mass so that it can be integrated into the system based on the demand.”

    That statement doesn’t inspire much confidence. Leave aside the incoherent part about storing electricity when generation is low, which is the exact opposite of what would happen..The part about “regulating the supply and usage of electricity” simply means power cut-offs via the system’s smart meters: Sorry folks, stormy weather, so you won’t be getting any juice to power your one lightbulb and cell-phone charging station today. And the part about “complementing the electricity through bio-mass”? That means, “As a matter of fact the project can’t provide any reliable electricity at all. You have to buy a micro-turbine running on rice-husks if you want that.”

    EL, this solar microgrid doesn’t look in any way reliable or affordable. It’s no wonder the villagers are up in arms over it. They need a proper grid, not a feeble solar makeshift.

    1. @Pete51, Will Boisvert

      Thanks for the correction, and digging deeper into the numbers (and finding the fact sheet I missed). I clearly overestimated the average daily output from 280 panels. They appear to be getting about 20% capacity (at 350 kWh/day), and have storage equal to 1.2 days of generation. They appear to be able to run all their water pumps for some 3.5 hours (30% share of generation), and the remaining for lighting and limited charging of small devices (for estimated 450 homes and 50 businesses). This is a small system, and appears to be curtailed as you describe during prolonged rainy days and monsoon season, and has high capital cost including storage. Not sure why operating costs are so high, I’m guessing it includes a lot of the planning, installation, etc. Purchasing of equipment likely did not benefit from any economy of scale. I don’t think 35-40 cents/kWh is all that bad for solar, smart grid, and storage (the cost burden being relatively low at the projected energy utilization rates, and the benefits being high). Given they currently have nothing, there isn’t a more cost effective alternative to compare it to (and owning your own panels is likely to be cost prohibitive for many residents and doesn’t represent a savings). Power lines to the nearest large community with a thermal coal plant appear to be 50 miles (to Patna).

      1. @EL

        This system may be the best available within the limitations of the applied budget, but is it more clear to you now why the villagers are not satisfied?

        India faces a huge challenge in providing electricity to its people, especially those in rural areas. That challenge is not made any easier by the need to struggle against organized antinuclear movements whose funds are supplied by international NGOs like Greenpeace. If the country did not have to spend so much time, energy and money pushing past that opposition, perhaps it would have more resources that could be devoted to a program akin to the Rural Electrification Agency.

  5. @ EL:

    “.I don’t think 35-40 cents/kWh is all that bad for solar, smart grid, and storage (the cost burden being relatively low at the projected energy utilization rates, and the benefits being high) Given they currently have nothing, there isn’t a more cost effective alternative to compare it to (and owning your own panels is likely to be cost prohibitive for many residents and doesn’t represent a savings).”

    The “cost burden” is “relatively low” because the amount of electricity homes are getting is ridiculously small—for the basic package it’s enough to run a single solitary light bulb and charge a cell-phone, weather permitting.

    And it’s definitely not true that the Dharnai villagers had no electricity at all before the Greenpeace microgrid came to town. The Greenpeace reports make clear that many villagers already did get electricity from their own solar panels and diesel generators. Diesel power is expensive and carbon-heavy, but it’s much more reliable than solar micro-grid power. So to the villagers the solar microgrid represents at best a marginal improvement over their previous electricity supply; and for those with diesel generators it’s probably a step backwards in performance and reliability.

    That context helps explain why the installation of the solar microgrid, presided over by state officials, stirred protests rather than celebrations. Villagers weren’t getting electricity for the first time, they were getting a microgrid that was not much better than their existing (woefully inadequate) electricity system. Naturally, they said, “Wait a minute—you’ve been promising us real grid power all these years, but now instead you’re giving us a feeble, fickle solar substitute? Thanks for nothing!”

    EL, the obsession with localized electricity and the disparagement of the grid are perhaps the most wrong-headed of green nostrums. Centralized grid power is vastly cheaper and incomparably more reliable than intermittent microgrids, even with battery storage, and is essential for economic development. A plan to power India with such microgrids is just a formula for perpetuating underdevelopment and energy poverty—something that Indian villagers understand all too well.

    1. The “cost burden” is “relatively low” because the amount of electricity homes are getting is ridiculously small—for the basic package it’s enough to run a single solitary light bulb and charge a cell-phone, weather permitting.

      @Will Boisvert

      You sound awful sure of yourself for someone who hasn’t had to light your home with kerosene (which isn’t particularly clean), operate a diesel back-up generator, travel to a larger village to charge your cell phone, or go without a grid connection (to an unstable grid) for 30 years or longer?

      @Will Boisvert, Rod Adams, Engineer-Poet

      The idea that this is being spearheaded by Greenpeace (and relies on the efforts of single NGO) is a great deal off the mark. As Rod suggested earlier, this is publicity for them (a platform to raise their profile), and they are already bandwagon followers and riding on local efforts that are already well underway in the region.

      David Ferris has a pretty good and balanced summary of microgrid sector in India (almost all of it solar power with some biomass and some small hydro): government sponsored projects, financing alternatives, local companies, private ventures, and the scope of initiatives, achievements and obstacles.

      The grid, more often than not, is an impediment in India (inadequate and prone to unreliability): “an estimated 25 percent of India’s power generation capacity is underutilized because of fuel shortages and other problems. The main supplier of power in India — the coal industry — also is hobbled by deep structural problems and the growing reluctance of international funders to build new coal plants.”

      The need is great: “Roughly 300 million Indians living in 80 million households — about a quarter of the country’s population of 1.2 billion — do not have access to electricity.”

      How do you solve this problem … with diesel generators (that are costly, noisy, pollute, and whose benefits fall mainly to the exclusive owners of the resource and with enough capital to purchase expensive equipment)? Do nothing, and hope the problem solves itself? Nuclear isn’t offering a better solution, especially for rural villages located away from large demand centers. Certainly not anytime soon. Villagers know this, and have heard the empty promises for last 3 decades. “… the biggest difficulty by far is getting paid. India’s farmers have irregular incomes and aren’t used to monthly bills. In tiny hamlets, forgiving one person’s debt means that next month no one will pay.”

      These are real challenges, despite how much you wish to downplay them (and none of them are getting solved anytime soon). Microgrids are one available solution, and can “scale up far faster than traditional power lines, which are often promised in India but seldom delivered.” It costs consumers “the equivalent of 50 centers per week, or four to five times more expensive than grid electricity, which is heavily subsidized.” It’s cheaper than a solar lantern, and a whole village can be lit up at once. Rather than make a trip to a bigger village to charge your phone, residents can do so at home. All major conveniences for residents who have been without electricity for decades, and who are burning kerosene lamps (that ‘pollute a home’s air”) or operating diesel generators near their homes. The future market is huge, and currently stands at $2.1 billion per year (according to some estimates). Yes, some people complain. This is nothing new (you take them too literally at their word), “many of these new electricity customers told me their lives had turned immediately for the better”.

      If someone can think of a better option, they should build it (nuclear or otherwise). Because nobody is waiting another thirty years for basic service such as lighting, irrigation water (not prone to fuel shortages), and cell phone charging, and NGOs (looking to raise their profile in the area, and on an international basis as well) want their share of the action, and are willing to invest in the region (and build positive relationships with local villagers) to get it.

      1. El,

        Actually, I agree with most of your points on this one. Some electricity is better than none – even expensive electricity is better than none. A project that supplied some help – is helpful. But a good large Diesel generator set would have supplied more electricity at a lower overall cost to the village. Of course, that would not have gotten “green” points. But the issues you point out about payment and the difficulty of building out transmission lines is real and fairly taken.

        My question about this method is – is is sustainable? I say this having participated in several projects where we supplied the capital costs and the local people supplied the ongoing O&M costs. In many cases those O&M costs were NOT paid and the project died in just a few years. I don’t thing that this project can be duplicated in other villages, at least not many of them.

        I agree that we need to get off our debate couches and do something.

      2. Microgrids are one available solution, and can “scale up far faster than traditional power lines, which are often promised in India but seldom delivered.”

        Shorter EL:  “solar micro-grids are better than nothing.”  That’s a straw man; nobody said otherwise.  And the issue of payment comes up again:  when batteries come up for replacement or charge controllers fail, who’ll pay?  You can do anything if you have sufficient foreign largesse, but that’s not scalable.

        All major conveniences for residents who have been without electricity for decades

        But still leaves them wanting “real electricity”.

        If someone can think of a better option, they should build it (nuclear or otherwise).

        Nuclear does have the advantage of not needing weekly (or even continuous) delivery of fuel.  India, with a poor, largely uneducated and substantially ineducable population, isn’t actually doing that badly in the nuclear department.  India has a reactor under construction that will run unattended and only need inspection 3 times a year.  This is something that can be built in volume and run by a very small workforce.

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