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Energy is a critical component in the development of any country and more so in the

context of the developing countries. Rapid industrialization is very often hampered due to

inadequate energy availability. Communications, health, shelter and other basic needs of the

society are also very much restrained by inadequate availability of energy at several phases and

sometimes it to such an extent that it even brings the whole process of planning in that sector to

a stand still. Conventional Hydro Power and Thermal Energy (from coal) had played a very

important role in the industrial development. However, the oil crisis starting from 1973 had

brought to focus that renewable energy sources have a very important role to play since the price

of a non-renewable source could be changed often adversely to the developmental interests of the

poorer countries.Often the technologies relating to the other sources of energy are not so well

developed and fine-tuned to have a high degree of efficiency in utilization. However, if one were

to look at the economic cost and the way some of these can be suitably priced it becomes

apparent that many of the alternative sources of energy are already in a position to compete with

conventional energy sources. Solar Energy and Wind Energy appear as natural sources of such

renewable energy options and these have been used in many countries somewhat successfully.

On the other hand, there are many other sources of alternative energy forms such as Biomass,

Bio fuels, Hydrogen Energy and the like which when developed could have an importance role

in meeting the energy needs in the countries of the region.

The paper illustrates the use of various non non conventional energy resources for

power generation, which include bio mass, sun light, wind, tides and fossils which are

abundantly available, to generate power as a viable alternative to the traditional and fast

depleting hydro and thermal resources.



Electricity is the key to economic development for any country. The conventional fossil

fuel resources for power generation are fast depleting and there is a growing concern over the

environmental degradation caused by conventional power plants. Against such implications,

power generation from non-conventional resources assumes greater significance. Among the

various renewable energy sources, biomass conversion technologies appear to be one of the best

suited for conversion to shaft power/electricity.

Among the various renewable energy sources, bio-resources, of which agro-residue

forms a major component, hold special promise as future fuel and feedstock. Biomass-based

systems are the only energy generating systems, which have the combined benefits of

renewability, decentralization, and availability on demand without need for separate storage.

Taking into account the energy requirements of collection, processing and conversion to convert

forms of that, biomass still assures a bright future from energy point of view.

Worldwide, biomass is the fourth largest energy resource after coal, oil, and natural gas.

It is used for heating (such as wood stoves in homes and for process heat in bioprocessing

industries), cooking (especially in many parts of the developing world), transportation (fuels

such as ethanol) and, increasingly, for electric power production.


1. Biomass is available all round the year. It is cheap, widely available, easy to

transport,store, and has no environmental hazards.

2. Biomass-based power generation systems, linked to plantations on wasteland,

simultaneously address the vital issues of wastelands development, environmental


restoration, rural employment generation and generation of power with no distribution


3. As a renewable fuel, biomass is used in nearly every corner of the developing world as a

source of heat, particularly in the domestic sector.

4. Biomass is a versatile source of energy, which can be converted to ‘modern’ forms such

as liquid and gaseous fuels, electricity and process heat.

5. Bioenergy also permits operation at varying scales. For example, small-scale (5– 10 kW),

medium-scale (1–10 MW) and large-scale (about 50 MW) electricity generation systems

or biogas plants of a few cubic meters (Indian and Chinese family plants for cooking) to

several thousand cubic meters (Danish systems for heat and electricity). This variety of

scales is useful for power generation for decentralized applications at the village level as

well as for supply to the national grids.

6. Modern biomass energy systems could be set up in virtually

any location where plants can be grown or domestic
animals reared.

Support from the government

Exploitation of the abundant biomass energy resources available in our country is being

accorded a high priority by the MNES (Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources). The

implementation of projects is being facilitated through comprehensive programmes by the

ministry, which seeks to create a favorable policy environment, encourage technology up

gradation and ensure market for the power generated.

In pursuance of the national agriculture policy, a National Biomass Resource Atlas is

being prepared with the specific intention of boosting power generation form biomass. The

national agriculture policy had called for increasing power generation from renewable sources

for meeting the needs of agriculture. The national Biomass Resource Assessment Programme has

been assigned this task. According to a recent initial assessment made by the MNES about 500

million tonnes of biomass is generated every year from crop residues, bagasse, agro residue and

forest sources. So far bagasse-based cogeneration has achieved a capacity of 222 MW and

about 332 MW capacity is under installation.


It is radiation from the Sun capable of producing heat, causing chemical reactions or

generating electricity. The Sun is an extremely powerful energy source and solar radiation is by

far the largest source of energy received by the Earth, but its intensity at the Earth's surface is

actually quite low. This is partly because the Earth's atmosphere and its clouds absorb or scatter

as much as 54 percent of all incoming sunlight. Despite this, in the 20th century solar energy

became increasingly attractive as an energy source owing to its inexhaustible supply and its

nonpolluting character, which are in stark contrast to such fossil-fuel sources as coal, oil, and

natural gas.

The sunlight that reaches the ground consists of nearly 50 percent visible light, 45

percent infrared radiation and smaller amounts of ultraviolet light and other forms of

electromagnetic radiation. This radiation can be converted either into thermal energy (heat) or

into electrical energy, though the former is easier to accomplish. Two main types of devices are

used to capture solar energy and convert it to thermal energy: flat-plate collectors and

concentrating collectors. Because the intensity of solar radiation at the Earth's surface is so low,

both types of collectors must be large in area. Even in sunny parts of the world's temperate

regions, for instance, a collector must have a surface area of about 430 square feet (40 square

m) to gather enough energy to serve one person for one day.


The most widely used flat-plate collectors consist of a blackened metal plate, covered

with one or two sheets of glass that is heated by the sunlight falling on it. This heat is then

transferred to air or to water, called carrier fluids, that flows past the back of the plate. Flat-plate

collectors are commonly used for hot-water heating and house heating. Flat-plate collectors

typically heat carrier fluids to temperatures ranging from 66° to 93° C (150° to 200° F). The

efficiency of such collectors ranges from 20 to 80 percent, depending on the design of the


Satellite Solar-Power Systems

The earth satellite solar-power system (SSPS) is based on technological advances

stemming from the space program. The concept involves the placement of earth satellites that

would function as solar energy collecting stations in geostationary or synchronous orbits around

the earth. Such orbits would be at an altitude of about 22,300mi (36,000 km) and would be

equational, i.e., parallel to earth’s equational plane. The satellites would have large collectors of

photo voltaic arrays. They would also have conversion systems that would convert the electric

power generated by the arrays into power at microwave frequencies. A large transmitting

antenna on each satellite would beam the microwave energy from its fixed position relative to

the earth to a receiving station on the surface of the earth. That station would have a large

receiving antenna that would reconvert the microwave power into ac electric power and feed into

a conventional power transmission grid. The satellites, being so high above the earth, would be

in sunlight most of the day, and no electric energy storage would be needed.

The attitude controls of an SSPS, possible through use of laser technology, must see to it

that the collector areas are constantly facing the sun and the transmitting antenna is constantly

facing the receiving antenna on the earth. Still, the SSPS would have to pass through the earth’s

shadow once a day, so that a complete cutoff of power from any one satellite is experienced

about 5 percent of the time. A possible solution to this would consist of two geostationary
satellites separated by about 7900mi(12,700 km) and thus about 20 out of phase, both having a

direct line of sight to the same receiving antenna on earth. Such a system would ensure that one

would be illuminated during the time the other is in the earth’s shadow. This would mean a 50

percent power cutoff during roughly 10 percent of the time, instead of a 100 percent cutoff

during 5 percent of the time, and a possibly better match to loads demands. Additional satellites

would even the power output further.


Solar energy which may be used directly creates other forms of energy that can also be

harnessed to generate power. One, the wind, is caused by the uneven solar heating and cooling of

the earth’s crust combined with the rotation of the earth. Another is the result of the absorption of

the seas and oceans of solar radiation, which causes, like the wind, ocean currents and moderate

temperature gradients from the water surface downward, especially in tropical waters. The

oceans and seas constitute some 70 percent of the earth’s surface area, so they represent a

rather large storage reservoir of the solar input.

The temperature gradient can be utilized in a heat engine to generate power. This is called

ocean temperature energy conversion (OTEC). OTEC may be considered solar energy once

removed. Because the temperature difference is small, even in the tropics, OTEC systems have

very low efficiencies and consequently have very high capital costs.

Another source of energy in the oceans that can be exploited for power generation is the

tides. Tides are primarily caused by lunar and only secondarily by solar, gravitational forces

acting together with those of the earth on the ocean waters to create tidal flows. These manifest

themselves in the rise and fall of waters with ranges (height differences) that vary daily and

seasonally and come at different times from day to day. They also vary widely from place to

place, being as low as few centimeters but may exceed 8 to 10 m (25 to 30ft) in some parts of the

world. The potential energy of the tides can be trapped to generate power, but at extremely high

capital costs.As the seas and oceans of the earth constitute about 70 percent of its surface area,

the total terrestrial solar energy incidence on them is immense, being equal to the total extra

terrestrial solar energy received by the earth, which is about 1.516 E +18 Kwh/year or about

5.457 E+18 MJ/year, times an average clearness index of 0.5 times the fraction of area 0.7 or

about 0.53 E+18 kWh/year, or 1.9 E+18 MJ/year. This corresponds to an average terrestrial

incidence on the waters of the solar constant S= 1353 W/sq.m x 0.5 = 676 W/sq.m. This energy

is not totally absorbed by the water because some of it is reflected back to the sky. At an average

water surface temperature of 20o C (680 F), the latent heat of vaporization is 2454kJ/kg and the

sea water density is a little over 1000kg/m3. The annual energy absorbed would therefore be

1.20 x 1000 x 2454, or about 3 x 10 6 kJ/m2 per year, which is equivalent to about 95W/m 2 or
about 14 percent of the incidence. This figure varies, being a little higher than 100 W/m in the

tropics to much less in arctic waters.

Solar-energy absorption by the water takes place according to Lambert’s law of

absorption, which states that each layer of equal thickness absorbs the same fraction of light that

goes through it. In other words,

-dl(y)/dy = µI (or) I(y)= Io e

where Io and I(y) are the intensities of radiation at the surface (y=0) and at a distance y below the
surface. µ is an extinction coefficient (also called absorption coefficient) that has the unit length
1 -1 -1 -1
. µ has values of 0.05m for very clear fresh water, 0.27m fore turbid fresh water and 0.50 m

for very salty water. Thus the intensity falls exponentially with depth and depending upon µ,

almost all of the absorption occurs very close to the surface of deep waters. Because of heat and

mass transfer at the surface itself, the maximum temperatures occur just below the surface.

Considering deep waters in general, the high temperatures are at the surface, whereas

deep water remains cool. In the tropics, the ocean surface temperature often exceeds 25o C

(77oF), while 1 km below the temperature is usually no higher than 10o C (50o F).Water density

decreases with an increase in temperature ( above 3.98o C, where pure water’s density is

maximum, decreasing again below this temperature, the reason ice floats). Thus there will be no

thermal convection currents between the warmer, lighter water at the top and the deep cooler,

heavier water.

It is said, therefore, that in tropical waters there are two essentially infinite heat

reservoirs, a heat source at the surface at about 27o C(81o F ) and a heat sink, some 1 km

directly below, at about 4o C( 39 o F); both reservoirs are maintained annually by solar incidence.

The concept of ocean temperature energy conversion (OTEC) is based on the utilization

of this temperature difference in a heat engine to generate power, a concept first recognized by

the Frenchman d’Arsonval in 1881. The maximum temperature difference on the earth is in the

tropics and is about 15 o C (59 o F). Ocean currents carry the 27 to 28o C warm tropical waters on a

journey to the arctic circles during which they are gradually cooled to 4o C and maximum

density. In the Arctic Circle they then settle below the surface, and a surface-deep water siphon

is created that keeps cold water below the surface.

The surface temperatures (temperatures differences) vary both with latitude and season

(refer figure above), both being maximum in tropical, subtropical, and equatorial waters, i.e.,

between the two tropics, making these waters the most suitable for OTEC systems.

The claims for OTEC systems are just as grandiose as those for most other renewable

energy systems. Within 800-km (500-mi) of that path, the temperature differences between

surface and deep waters varies between 22o C (40 o F) and 15o C (27o F). Assuming a practical

conversion efficiency of 2 percent (below), the Gulf Stream represents an annual power potential

of 700 x 1012 kWh. An array of conversion plants moored on 1-mi (1.6-km) spacing along the

length and breadth of that path would be capable of an annual 26 x 10 12 kWh. Such are the

claims for OTEC, but practical and financial problems effectively preclude such dreams.


It is the power obtained by using heat from the Earth's interior. Most geothermal

resources are in regions of active volcanism. Hot springs, geysers, pools of boiling mud, and

fumaroles (vents of volcanic gases and heated groundwater) are the most easily exploited sources

of such energy. The greatest potential for geothermal energy, however, lies in the generation of

electricity. Geothermal energy was first used to produce electric power at Larderello, Italy, in

1904. By the late 20th century, geothermal power plants were in operation in Italy, New Zealand,

Japan, Iceland, Mexico, the United States, and elsewhere, and many others were under

construction in other countries.

The most useful geothermal resources are hot water and steam trapped in subsurface

formations or reservoirs and having temperatures ranging from 176° to 662° F (80° to 350° C).

Water and steam hotter than 356° F (180° C) are the most easily exploited for electric-power

generation and are utilized by most existing geothermal power plants. In these plants the hot

water is flashed to steam, which is then used to drive a turbine whose mechanical energy is then

converted to electricity by a generator. Hot, dry subsurface rocks may also become more widely

used as a source of geothermal energy once the technical problems of circulating water through

them for heating and conversion to steam are completely resolved. The development of

geothermal resources has become increasingly attractive owing to the rising cost of petroleum

and the non polluting character of geothermal energy production.