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India Targets 35% Renewable Energy Generation By 2050

2040-50 may finally be the decade when the installed renewable energy capacity in India would overtake the coal-based installed capacity, if the ambitious Integrated Plan for Desert Power Development is fully realized.

Under the Desert Power India – 2050 plan, a gargantuan 455 GW of renewable energy capacity addition has been targeted to meet India’s ever-growing need for electricity. According to a government enterprise, the Asian giant would require an installed power base of 1,388 GW, compared to the current 250 GW.

About two-thirds of this 455 GW renewable energy capacity would be installed in the desert wastelands of India, spread across the northern and western parts of the country. The arid regions of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir in the north, and the Desert of Rajasthan and marshland of Kutch in Gujarat in the western part, have been identified for this project.

The plan is to harness 5-15% of the wasteland available in these arid regions to tap the vast solar and wind energy potential. Upon harvesting 95% of the solar and wind energy potential available on 10% of the area, a total of 271 GW of solar power capacity and 29 GW of wind power capacity would be installed.

Renewable energy sources currently contribute about 12% to India’s installed capacity base, with a capacity of about 32 GW. With an installed renewable energy base of 485 GW in 2050, the share of renewable energy capacity would increase to 35%, while the share of coal-based power capacity would be 32%.

With 300 GW capacity coming from the desert areas, the balance 155 GW capacity would come from states rich in renewable energy resources – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra among others. These states are likely to contribute 55 GW capacity, while 70 GW capacity would contributed through biomass, waste-to-power, small hydro power, rooftop and canal-top solar power projects across the country. Offshore wind energy capacity is expected to contribute about 30 GW.

The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) has already started working on four ultra mega solar power plants in these arid regions. The Indian Finance Ministry recently announced $90 million outlay for these projects. The government would also support the construction of ‘Green Corridors’ – transmission networks dedicated to carry electricity generated from renewable energy projects throughout the country.

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Efficient Structures Help Build a Sustainable Future

When envisioning a new structure, engineers often have to balance design choices against the environmental impact of materials used. It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of greenhouse gases are produced by the construction industry, according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Lessening the impact of construction on the environment is a work in progress.

Researchers are searching for designs and materials that are less harmful to the environment. The team compared the sustainability of two structural systems commonly used for spans exceeding 250 feet: the steel cable system and the steel truss system.

Thoughtful selection, by the architectural engineer, in the initial stages of the design process, can reduce environmental impact related to the construction process. The findings show that the selection of steel cable structural system for long spans has considerably less environmental impact than a steel truss system to achieve the same structural requirements, through the entire life cycle of the structure.

Like a spider web, the cable system utilizes tension to sustain a structure. In contrast, the truss system uses compression members in the span of the structure. Most structures in nature rely on tension as it is the most efficient way to transfer forces. They typically minimize compression members and maximize tension members.  In a tree, for instance, the trunk is the only compression member, and the branches and leaves rely on either a combination of tension and compression, or tension alone, for their support.

For the study, the researchers designed and compared the most efficient configurations for a steel truss and a steel cable structural system. Both systems were intended for the same function and with the same requirements. To analyze the sustainability of each structure, they used the life-cycle-assessment (LCA), which estimates the environmental impact of a structure during material extraction, manufacturing, construction, use, maintenance and end-of-life phases.

 

The results show that the cable system has 29 % less mass, 65.1 % less embodied energy (the energy required to produce the structural system, including both materials and placement) and generates 67.2 % less CO2 emissions, than the truss system.

The findings imply that understanding how material selection can affect efficiency is one way to mitigate environmental damage from construction. The researchers are continuing to investigate and compare environmental impacts of other structural systems that can serve the same purpose.

A Journey Into Deeper Understanding

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