“We need to explore renewable energy options”
|Ajay G. Chandak, Assistant
Professor in Mechanical Engineering at SSVPS BSD College
of Engineering in Dhule has taken upon himself the task
of achieving energy independence through renewable
sources and set up an NGO – PRINCE (Promoters and
Researchers in Non-Conventional Energy) for the purpose.
In an interview to OIOP, he talks about the utility of
non-conventional energy and his work in this
Can you describe the energy scenario in
Broadly, we classify energy in two categories as
electricity and fuels (kerosene, petrol, diesel, LPG etc.). We
should reduce our dependence on electricity wherever possible.
For e.g. we use electricity for heating water, though we have
other fuels like LPG, coal, firewood, solar heaters etc. which
are more efficient than electricity if you take a holistic
approach. We burn coal at thermal power station to generate
electricity, suffer huge losses in transmission and
distribution and finally convert that electricity into heat.
It is better to directly burn coal at home and get the
required heat. This way we will save 70 per cent of
existing deficit in electricity generation is due to lack of
political will. India has abundant coal reserves that can last
for more than 150 years. Projects like ‘Dabhol’ (now Ratnagiri
power project, which are based on imported gas based projects)
are bound to fail because of huge fuel cost involved. We
should rely more on coal based power generation till we make a
technological breakthrough. Almost 80 per cent of liquid fuels
are imported and the life of existing reserves is less than 40
years. We cannot rely on imports. So there is a need to shift
our economy from liquid fuels to electricity and increase
electricity production to power surplus status. We need to
explore. renewable energy options.
Is it a crisis situation?
as liquid fuel is concerned, yes; but not for electricity
generation. We can rectify the situation provided there is a
political will. The way out is to increase coal based
electricity generation and switchover the oil based
applications to electricity based applications. Also promote
renewable energy to conserve the resources.
What made you venture into the field of
It was basically love
for nature that pulled me into renewable energy area. Any use
of conventional energy results in pollution and destruction of
nature. With my technical background and innovative approach,
I thought I could contribute a lot in the field of renewable
energy which has now become a passion for me.
How do you see renewable energy impacting our
People have very high expectations from
renewable energy but it is extremely important to understand
its limitations too. Electricity generation from biomass and
in few cases by big grid connected wind generators is
practical to some extent, but largely other renewable energy
options are still no good for electricity generation. However,
‘renewable energy’ opens up huge possibilities for saving
fuel. India has huge potential for exploiting the gift of
nature by way of good sun, wind and rain. We can save huge
amount of fuels and electricity by adopting renewable energy
Which form of non-conventional energy can be
best exploited in India and how efficient can this energy be?
Solar thermal energy is an extremely viable
option for cooking, water heating, vegetable and fruit drying
and for different industrial applications. Moreover, these
gadgets are time tested and compete with fossil fuel
also one of the most promising but highly neglected renewable
energy options. With new technologies coming in, we can save
more than 50 per cent of LPG use if we switch over to biogas.
A few biogas-bottling projects for vehicle fuel have also come
up in recent years. On a small-scale, electricity generation
through biogas is economical and ideal for isolated tribal
villages. Dairies, poultries and food processing industries
can generate biogas on a large scale.
can easily replace conventional fuels and can generate power
at an economical cost. Many sugar mills and rice mills have
already installed cogeneration plants and many more are in the
pipeline. At rural level, there is a big market for localised
power generation and wood efficient chulhas.
need to learn a lot in other renewable energy technologies
like geothermal, tidal etc.
Which are the areas where renewable energy can
Renewable energy options can be used in
domestic and industrial sectors. Low and medium temperature
heating applications can be substituted by renewable energy
applications like solar thermal, biogas and biomass. Cooking
(domestic and commercial), water heating, industrial heating
and drying are the main areas where this energy can be
Can you tell us about your patent applications
and your various domestic and industrial
We have developed new designs of
domestic and community parabolic cookers. The products are
commercialised and the technology is available for
dissemination. Community cookers are now accepted for
government’s mid day meal scheme. Industrial solar
concentrator and biogas generation from Neem seed have been
developed and tested. We are searching for some enthusiastic
clients who will allow its commercial installation. The solar
balcony cooker is under production and I expect to launch its
commercial version soon. Few other patent applications like
‘heat based pump’, ‘solar industrial oven’ etc. are good
potential technologies but need funds for development and
You have received various awards and nominations
for your work. What do you think are your major achievements
in this field?
I don’t regard these awards as
major achievements; these are small milestones. We still have
a long way to go. I feel my colleagues, friends, members of
PRINCE and all well wishers have big contributions in the
awards. Getting an award from Maharashtra Government was a
surprise. I could not get a single project sanctioned from any
government agency but still they acknowledged our work by
giving a ‘Renewable Energy Award’. There are many good
officers but they need to break their shackles and support
good programmes and projects.
feel dejected when a progressive state like Maharashtra sets a
target of installing only 300 parabolic cookers (other states
have still lower targets) while the potential is in millions.
If we can innovate good renewable energy gadgets and motivate
masses to switchover to good viable renewable energy
technologies, that will be the real award. My goal is to
invent new practical and acceptable technologies which can be
adopted by masses, promote all renewable and energy saving
technologies by educating people on the subject.
Tell us about the energy parks you have
developed and how can this concept be expanded further for the
benefit of the society?
We have a farm house
with many energy efficient features and roof water harvesting,
many designs of solar cookers, solar water heater, solar
vegetable and fruit dryers, biogas plants, vermicompost etc.
Visitors can have a first hand experience of these equipments
and this would be helpful in promoting renewable energy.
Energy park is a concept which was launched by Government of
India two years ago. Sadly these are in pathetic condition
because these parks are flooded with impractical technologies.
When a farmer sees a solar pump at such an energy park he
feels delighted that he has some solution to his problem but
he gets a shock of his life when he realises that he needs to
shell out more than Rs.5 lakhs (after availing government
subsidies) for a pump of just 3 H.P. If farmers could afford
Rs. 5 lakh plus for a pump, why will we have so many suicide
cases? Most of the visitors go back with the impression that
there are technologies available which they can never afford.
This defeats the purpose of the energy parks. I think energy
parks should offer technologies that are financially and
socially viable. With good viable technologies and some sort
of monitoring mechanism, these parks can be
What kind of support do you expect from the
Our expectations are basically at
policy level. The government policies should be such that they
encourage development of renewable energy resources and not
kill them. Subsidies are withdrawn from very viable
technologies like biogas, solar water heaters etc. High
subsidies on conventional fuels like kerosene and LPG are
killing renewable energy options like solar cookers and
biogas. The scene should have been reversed. You need to tax
fossil fuels and subsidise renewable energy technologies.
Policies at present are corporate friendly and not people
friendly. The policies favour corporate manufacturers and
users and retard use at common people’s level. The trend
should be reversed.
research grants from government on renewable energy are not
used judiciously. The focus on research should be field
oriented rather than purely academic. Grants should be given
to field projects that will benefit society at large. Most of
the research grants are made available to regional test
centres and reputed academic institutes. These grants end up
in few thesis and presentations at conferences. There also has
to be some accountability for the research grants given to
many NGOs in the field doing excellent work in development and
promotion of renewable energy. They need to be supported and
promoted through favourable policies and sincere implementing
officers. To put it in a nutshell the government need to make
drastic change in policies to make renewable energy
applications more people friendly.
Please share with us your idea about Energy
While constructing a new
house, the owners, architects and engineers should utilise
techniques of solar passive and active features. My dream
house will have planning based on solar passive architecture,
use of low energy eco-friendly materials, roof water
harvesting, integrated biogas plant (which will run on other
fuels than cow dung), provision for solar cooking, solar water
heating, use of efficient lighting like LEDs, CFLs, light
colours for interiors and exteriors, proper management of
heat, light and wind etc. A small organic fertiliser plant for
digesting all garden waste and discharge of biogas plant and
this biomanure can be recycled to the garden. I have some of
these features in my existing house but I will love to
implement many more features and such concepts for people who
wish to adopt eco-friendly lifestyles.
How can we save energy?
one of the biggest resources which has put the planet under
pressure. We stress on three basic principles to save energy –
energy conservation, using energy efficient devices and
switching over to renewable energy gadgets.
queries and questions through e-mails. Our contact details:
TIPS TO SAVE
- Use solar cookers to save cooking
gas. At present, a new breed of parabolic cookers are
available in the market, which are faster than the
more known box cookers.
- Use solar water heaters. New
vacuum tube solar water systems are excellent. They
shave off major electrical load in the house.
- Install new city design of biogas
plant. You can give away LPG.
- Never shut off the equipments
using only the remote. Always switch off T.V.,
microwave, C.D. player etc. from the main switch. If
you switch off by using remote then the equipment
control circuit still consumes 5 to 20
- Use LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)
monitor for computers. This will save almost 80
- Use LED (Light Emitting Diode)
and CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights) for low-level
lighting in the house, especially in passages, toilets
and for ambient lighting.
- For higher level of illumination
use tube lights with electronic chokes. (Replace your
conventional copper chokes with electronic one). This
will save more than 40 per cent of power. Use of new
fluorescent tube rods called triphospher tubes
increases illumination level by 40 per cent without
- Always keep your refrigerator
setting at minimum cooling level, unless and until you
are in hurry to make ice-creams and all. This can save
more than 20 per cent of power.
- Keep your air-conditioner setting
at highest possible temperatures, may be 25-260C. This
can save ten per cent power easily.
- Never use incandescent bulbs.
Even for night lamps, what we call as zero bulbs (they
still consume 15 to 20 watts), use one-watt LED
- Use of electricity for heating
application should be avoided.
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