Apr 20, 2009

Power play

Warning: This is likely to be a boring post, especially if you are not that into cricket. Or funding power projects.

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I have been looking for shortcuts to understand and remember salient features of my area of work. Reading about load factors, calorific value, heat rates, HRT and TRT, photovoltaic effect etc is not much fun, especially if you harbour a deep hatred for engineers.



And then, while watching a cricket match during a work break, I get a brainwave! And out comes this piece of inspired genius...


So, here goes... SRK's ready reckoner for understanding power plants:

Hydro power is like Sachin. Vast reserves, sitting still, and you don't realize its power till you turn it on. Once it is turned on, nothing comes in its away. Or rather, whatever comes is swept away by ruthless force. Very clean, very efficient, and of course, long long life.


Wind power is like Sehwag. Highly unpredictable, it can blow fast and feed lots of power into the grid, or not blow at all and become a liability to the grid instead. Really exciting to watch, high and mighty, but all the advance studies still don't allow for predicting the final outcome as to how much power will actually be generated.


Coal thermal power is like Dravid. The one which caters to the base load, around which all the other exciting technologies survive. The one source you can rely upon, the one which performs non-stop, 24 hours a day, 365 days a week. Maximum efficiency, but still never respected because it is not exciting, it is not new-age and it is not really fashionable. And people are always calling for it to be curtailed.


Gas power is like VVS. More efficient than coal, much cleaner than coal, but lying idle for years now. Proven potential, but lack of resources hampered its growth. And oh, coincidentally, based in Andhra Pradesh.


Nuclear power is like Saurav. Very volatile, dangerous and highly controversial. With a half-life that lingers on long after the plant ceases to operate. Which makes it extremely difficult to dispose of. But, but, but... when it actually works, there is nothing better.


Solar power is like Yuvraj. Everybody's talking about it. For years and years now. Everybody thinks it is the panacea for power shortage. Everybody's excited about its potential. No one has seen actual on the ground performance. Yet, half the world is betting on it. And hoping... if only...

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It is said that the things you dream about are the ones that are constantly on your mind. Well, for the last few days, the only things that have been on my mind are work (thanks to my boss) and cricket (thanks to Modi).

17 comments:

  1. LOL!
    SO TRUE!
    Have you noticed that only some of them are renewable sources of energy in cricket?
    :D

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  2. Anonymous1:58 AM

    Not at all boring.. since i love criket and ahem! am into pow"errr"
    some analalogies completely wrong...
    Hydro cannot be sachin .. should be Yusuf Pathan or Sehwag.. or some other blaster player "Operates at a PLF of 45%, but scores at scorching pace during "peak hours".. gets the best tariff... a "peaking plant"

    and hello!!! Coal Plants not exciting.. tell me about it... throw in a captive coal mine and ppl will buy out politicians, local ppl will disapper overnight (land acquisition troubles).. most exciting thing in power sector as of now! wanna check the cash flows of a comapny owned by some1 fighting elections and escaped the wrath of "shoe" thrower ?!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Not at all boring.. since i love criket and ahem! am into pow"errr"
    some analalogies completely wrong...
    Hydro cannot be sachin .. should be Yusuf Pathan or Sehwag.. or some other blaster player "Operates at a PLF of 45%, but scores at scorching pace during "peak hours".. gets the best tariff... a "peaking plant"

    and hello!!! Coal Plants not exciting.. tell me about it... throw in a captive coal mine and ppl will buy out politicians, local ppl will disapper overnight (land acquisition troubles).. most exciting thing in power sector as of now! wanna check the cash flows of a comapny owned by some1 fighting elections and escaped the wrath of "shoe" thrower ?! :-)
    cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  4. @ Vivek:
    Most renewables are over-hyped...
    and as for cricket, there's only one ever'green' cricketer... SRT!!!

    @ Satish:
    tnx a lot!!!

    @ R.Anand:
    :)

    @ Hem:
    Let me try to defend the analogy...
    Can peak at will... can apply to Sachin, and Sehwag... I won't even discuss Yusuf Pathan till he becomes a regular in the squad... 2T-2os don't make a great batsman!

    The ability to peak comes from gradual build-up... rather than from some sudden gust of wind... Thus, Sehwag more suited for wind and Sachin for Hydro...

    Longer life of the plant... we'll put Sehwag and Yusuf in this category after year 2020... assuming Sachin has retired by then...


    as for coal not being exciting, again, it is more in the context of people not getting too excited about it inspite of its inherent advantages... it's not the 'next big thing', and people view it as increasingly redundant...

    of course, i understand where u r coming from as regards the captive coal mine :)

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  5. what energy is it for all the cuties of cricket? irfan pathan, zaheer khan, robin uthappa etc etc :) yeah..im one of those who only watch cricket for the men :)

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  6. and offcourse i understand the love for hydro frm you... this was a slow one... lets pick up some "gati" in the next one ;-)

    still wanna call it sachin... ?
    baaki its not done discussing here.. i shall be doing some business with y'all, so c ya soon!

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  7. @ fiona:
    robin uthappa is cute??? i alwez thought his face resembles his surname...

    as for the other 2, mebbe bio-gas??
    more effort is spent in producing the energy than is necessary, with no large scale benefits...

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  8. have taken the liberty of blog-rolling you :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. LOL @ response to Fiona!
    :D :D

    ReplyDelete
  10. @ hem:
    let's take "business" offline...
    and since u r the client, i'll cede the argument... after all, "the customer is always right" ;)

    @ Anjana:
    tnk u very much...

    @ Vivek:
    was that "LOL" for robin, or for bio-gas?

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  11. hehehe..thats why uthapam is my fav dish ;)

    and LOL on bio-gas! :)

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  12. Dammit - I was just gonna make a biogas comment! Cha!

    I'd go with Rohit Sharma for Solar-Thermal - limited success in equally limited experiments has experts raving as the next next big thing, even leapfrogging regular Solar, but the layperson sees no evidence to support such high praise nor is there any activity in the market.

    Of course, my second favorite cricketer, Dhoni, is not so much a powerplant anymore as he is a much improved grid whose transmission efficiency results in a much greater throughput and better modulation of power from existing sources than a few more powerplants would.

    Anyways, funny post! Especially appreciated it as a cricket fan and a Engineer who specialized in Power/Energy conversion in college.

    PS: I'm curious - what kinda work do you do? I ask because about 6 months ago I was looking to start a small social enterprise installing wind-powered waterpumps for irrigation in villages and so was researching wind power.

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  13. @ fiona:
    robin is one (k)odava-karai payyan...

    @ idling:
    was ur bio gas comment to be on the same bowlers?

    and solar thermal, i think, has been operating in California for quite sometime now... costly yes, but sucessful too... I need to read up more on that though...

    and if Dhoni and India's transmission system?? don't u think one loses too much and the other doesn't... :)

    as for the PS, I work for an NBFC, which funds (loans) infra projects in India... but then we deal with mostly larger MW size projects... ur idea wud require a VC, or maybe even CSR departments of companies... and is unfortunately outside our purview...

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  14. After a lot many days, a post which I really liked. That counts for nothing, I know. But good one.

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  15. The bio-gas comment was going to be for Sreesanth, I think.

    Re: solar thermal, Ausra is probably the most promising of the companies I've observed in that field, but in my limited research, only academics seem to think it's viable. Of course, you would know better.

    And Dhoni is like the grid we don't have yet. :) You know how people keep complaining that grid efficiency is so low in India, that an improved grid would get a lot more out of our existing powerplants. I think that's Dhoni - his captaincy has brought the best out of the same Indian team that had been struggling before. :)

    And thanks for the info. I was just curious is all. I had a funding promise from a couple of silicon valley angels and one VC, but I postponed the idea for a couple of years to focus on some family investments in real estate.

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