By Bashir A Syed
A lot has been said about the rental power since 2008, when I first heard it from the HORSE's mouth (the person who had come to give the SALES PITCH), when the Petroleum Minister visited Houston. It is really very stupid to let not only the people of Pakistan suffer everyday due to lack of electricity (8 to 14 hours), but also it has DECREASED the productivity (in every sense of the word) of the nation.
Being a physicist I can say that all other options, like Hydel Power, Coal, etc. will not cure the problems over night like a magic wand; it will take at least ten years plus billions of dollars of investments (mostly borrowed money) before the people will start receiving ELECTRONS (Electricity) through the GRID (which again cannot serve the entire geographical areas of Pakistan).
The only viable Solution is to use Renewable Energy Sources (such as SOLAR, WIND, and SMALL HYDRO), that can serve the needs of people of all classes of the country, be poor or rich, without further burdening the country with any additional debt.
I was in Shanghai, China during the first week of May, 2010, to attend the world's largest Solar Conference/Exhibition with 1300 exhibition booths), where the Chinese proved that not only China will lead the world in Solar Technology, but they also shattered the myth of SOLAR being "too – EXPENSIVE." When compared with prices of two or three years ago, when the cost of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Modules was about $ 5 (dollars) per watt, has now dropped down to $1.2 Dollars per watt in 2010. By adding the cost of Charge Controllers/Inverters, plus hardware, the cost has come down to about $ 3.5 Dollars per Watt (installed system).
Nature holds certain basic necessities like air, water, sunlight etc. in its control. Thus there is no cost of SUNLIGHT, coming directly to each one of us everyday free of cost as a gift from our Creator; the life of the (Crystalline Silicon PV Technology) PV Modules is in excess of 20 years. Since there are no moving parts, Solar Systems require least amount of maintenance.
Throughout the developed world, a policy of Connecting this Electrical source to the GRID (first formulated by Pres. Jimmy Carter in 1978) has been adopted, the Electric Utility companies are required by law to buy Electricity produced through Solar Energy by the consumer is bought back (through Grid-Tie systems). This makes everyone a winner, the Consumers earns money by sending Solar Electricity to the Grid (through their existing meter, which reads the difference of energy to be billed), and it helps the society by decreasing the need for building more Power Generating Stations. This in turn also helps the Environment to reduce the Air Pollution, which effects the changes in the Climate by reduced Earth Warming (a reality, not fiction).
Solar Systems are avaialble from 15-Watts to Several Kilo-Watts, and now Solar PV Farms approaching 500 Mega-Watts (largest to be built by Chinese in Arizona by the Chinese). These solar systems are within the affordable limits of all users, and do not require further burden on the nation for further indebtedness, and bribes associated with them (ref. book by John Perkins," Confessions of an Economic Hit Man."). Grid-Tie Solar PV Systems are being used as attractive facades for Sky Scrappers in New York City and other places. More powerful systems can be utilized that use Heat of the Sunlight to operate a Sterling Engine- operated Generators and can produce from 1 kilo-Watt to 20 kilo-Watt of Energy.
For 24-hour usage, Storage Batteries can be used to store energy like we do in automobiles. Such battery backed systems are being used in rural areas and cities as sources of Alternate power needed in places like Police Stations, Hospitals, and Disaster Relief situations, and many more. A company in America produces flexible (transparent) Plastic (Conducting Polymer) sheets which can be hung like attractive drapes in windows, to catch any amount of light and convert it to electricity. Such plastic sheets are combined with canvass material used in fabricating tents (for military and disaster relief needs, eliminating the need for heavy and noisy generators, and bulky battery packs). Such plastic is now being incorporated in Ski Jackets, ladies hand-bags, men's brief cases to serve as emergency Cell-phone chargers and other tasks.
SOLAR energy is the ultimate and viable solution for Pakistan and the rest of the world. The days of fossil fuel are over but not totally gone, that won't last more than 200 hundred years, but the SUN will keep on shining till the LAST DAY.
Solar energy is like fast food or instant coffee, you install the system now, the next moment it starts converting LIGHT (any amount from any source, SUN or lamps-indoors, etc) into ELECTRICITY. This is the advantage of SOLAR PV Technology (as you don't have to wait for ten years). In Europe, people propel boats in the rivers and seaside with Solar Power. Recently (2010), a Solar PV Powered Plane in Switzerland, piloted by a HUMAN-being, set a record of 48 hours of flight in the air without any Petrol or Gasoline fuel.
The author is a retired aerospace physicist, Member: Amer. Phys. Soc., IEEE, Union of Concerned Scientists, Amer. Solar Energy Soc., and Sr. Member International Solar Energy Society.
(1) Map of World Oil Reserves, data provided by British Petroleum (BP) and posted on the Web at: http://earthtrends.wri.org/maps_spatial/maps_fullscale.php?mapID=505&theme=6
(2) PETROLISTAN: Oil & War. a 30 page PDF File posted on the web at www.environmentaldirectory.info ; Edited and Produced by Paul Robins , (as part of "The Houston Environmental Directory,") P.O. Box 1374, Austin, TX 78767 in 2007.