Conventional sources of power like coal, petroleum and natural gas are likely to exhaust in near future. The development of hydel power alone can not meet the demand of electricity for the future.
Therefore, there is a need to find and develop alternative sources of power. Sun, wind, tides, biological wastes and hot springs are such sources which can be developed as the alternative sources of power. They are called the non-conventional sources of energy. These sources of energy are renewable and pollution free.
For the planet earth, the Sun is the primary source of all energy. Sun is the most vital, abundant and direct source of energy. India lies in the tropical zone and has plenty of sun shine, for long hours of a day. There are large possibilities to develop solar energy in the country and that too without much cost.
Solar energy is tapped through the system of Solar Photo Voltaic (SPV) cells. The thermal heating system can be used for water heating, solar cookers for cooking meals and drying food grains, etc. Solar energy can be developed in almost every part of the country but more so in hot, dry and cloud free areas like Rajasthan.
Wind can be used as a source of energy in those regions where strong and constant winds blow throughout the year. Wind energy can be used for pumping water for irrigation and also for generating electricity.
India has about 45,000 MW estimated wind power potential. Prospective sites for generating electricity wind have been located in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. The potential that can be tapped at present is limited to around 13,000 MW.
But at present 2,483 MW is generated through wind which places India in the fifth position globally after Germany, USA, Denmark and Spain.
Biogas is obtained by using animal refuge like cow dung. It is widely used in rural areas mainly as domestic fuel. Efforts are being made to popularise the biogas plants in the country.
Urban and industrial waste is another source of biological energy in big cities and industrial centres. These materials can be used for generating electricity or biogas. The work in this direction is still in its initial stage. Such plants have been installed in Delhi and few cities in India.
Energy generated from farm or agricultural wastes, agro-industrial wastes, energy plantations, etc is known as biomass energy. The potential of biomass power in the country has been estimated at about 19,500 MW. So far a total capacity of 614 MW biomass based power generating system has been installed and a capacity of 643MW are under installation in the country.
Energy can also be generated from high tidal waves. Some of the important sites identified for generating tidal energy are located in the Gulf of Kuchch and Cambay in Gujarat state and the coast of Kerala. A plant of 150 MW capacity has been installed on Kerala coast.
The potential of geotherma1 power is very limited in India. Important sites selected for generating geothermal power are situated in Himachal Pradesh (Mani Karan) and Jammu and Kashmir (Puga valley in Ladakh). Assessment of geothermal energy potentials of selected sites in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh is being undertaken.
The non-conventional sources of energy are renewable and pollution free. They can be helpful in the utilization of resources scattered all over the country. But the development of these energy resources is very slow, due to lack of suitable and economically viable technologies. Even so there is no doubt that they would become a reality in not a very distant future.
There are prospects of expanding the manufacturing industries and mechanization of agriculture in the nooks and corners of the country. Naturally there will be more demand for energy derived from the non-conventional sources.