Friday, April 13, 2007

Mumbai Power Crisis and Renewable Energy Solutions


"The crisis has never been so grave: today the shortfall has shot up to 4000MW which is about 25% of the state's total consumption. Cutting down on illumination is more symbolic than anything else"- Times of India reported recently.
"Don't leave that air-conditioner on, if you don't need it". In a clear sign of the deepening power crisis, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has decided to issue a public notice urging consumers in Mumbai to cut power consumption by 20%.

It is the fact that Maharashtra, with its five-star rating as the most industrialised State in the country, is now fourth in the list of power deficit States. After Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra has an energy deficit of 11.6 per cent. The peak deficit has touched a high of 20 per cent. In practical terms, this means that the shortfall is about 3,000 MW According to rough estimates made by MSEB officials, in the past year T&D losses amounted to 35 per cent of the power generated. Six per cent of this is inevitable and acceptable loss, but the rest is the result of power theft and poor infrastructure maintenance. It is practically a herculian task to improve the efficiency of the present transmission & disttribution facility in a most habitated cities like Mumbai. Nevertheless this has to be one of the priorities while keeping vigilance on power thefts.


For once, MERC members are unanimous that the precarious supply situation calls for serious power conservation. The commission may even propose a penalty, such as token disconnection for a day, besides imposing a steep rate for anything more than 80% of normal consumption from industrial, commercial, and residential users if there is no drop in consumption.


Things like will continue in this manner until and unless some big step is taken to solve the power crisis. Some strategic big step will only solve the problem on a long term. On the other hand there are certain responsibilities with the communities living in Mumbai as well.

Last week I happened to be in one of the posh flats in Mumbai in connection with my official tour. In Mumbai, I was invited by my friend and Trivandrm Engineering College classmate Mr. Raghavan for a day's stay with him. It was a wonderful opportunity for us for refreshing our college day memories. ( Raghavan is now a Senior officer with Air India in Mumbai). Mr. & Mrs. Raghavan arranged every comfort for me including A.C and hot water for bathing. That time I thought that it is simply fine and excellent if we get the power all the time in Mumbai.

During the dinner at his club we exchanged our views on Mumbai's daily life. "Electricity and Energy Conservation" came to our agenda for discussion as we happened to be electrical engineers. (Fortunately or unfortunately no one from our 1984-88 CET batch has become a software engineer though some one tried). However I was little bit skeptical about their conventional hot water facilty with geysers (though I enjoyed it) and adviced him to go for Solar Water Heating, a proven Renewable Energy Technology which can be adopted by him or his society. It was quite natural for me to express like that as an engineer involved in the dissemination of Renewable Energy for the last 16 years. For people like Raghavan, this will make sense if and only if the particulat flat society is taking care of the community solar water heater installation. Of course; they can do it. All the flats in Mumbai can do it. That is what Bangalore has done. In India, Bangalore is the city where this technology is well exploited and still offers a very good market to Solar Thermal comapnies. The total potential in India is 140 million square kilometers of collecter area, out of which which only 1.65 million square kilometeres collecter area is only tapped or exploited for solar water heating. I personally feel that some legislation should go immediately to make it mandatory to install solar water heaters in Mumbai.

Solar water heating systems usually cost more to purchase and install than conventional water heating systems. However, a solar water heater can usually save you money in the long run. Its payback period is two to three years only. How much money you save depends on the amount of hot water you use, the cost of electricity, available incentives etc. If you install a solar water heater, your water heating bills should drop 50%–80%. Also, because the sun is free, you're protected from future fuel shortages and price hikes. Solar water Heaters can effectively used for hot water usage for hotels, hospitals, restaurants, dairies, homes, industry etc. Generally solar water heaters (SWHs) of 100-300 litres capacity are suited for domestic applications. Larger systems can be used in restaurants, canteens, guest houses, hotels, flats etc.

A 100 litres capacity SWH can replace an electric geyser for residential use and saves 1500 units of electricity annually. The use of 1000 SWHs of 100 litres capacity each can contribute to a peak load shaving of 1 MW. Another notable point is that SWH of 100 litres capacity can prevent emission of 1.5 tonnes of carbon-dioxide per year; a small step against climate change and ozone depletion.

Raghavan listened to my lecture with patience ( He has to listen since I happened to be his guest!!) He was impressed by my argument for solar water heaters and supported me with unique solutions for flats in Mumbai. He even went on to say that it was criminal to use gysers in Mumbai with the existing grim power situation.
Now Mumbai faces its worst ever crisis and technocrats and politicians are thinking for quick solutions. I heard that Raghavan is planning for a community Solar Water Heating System for the usage of his whole flat. Yes.... If he is successful, a small but great help to the community by reducing their electricity charges and of course a small contribution for the solution of Mumbai power crisis in addition to the environmental benefits.

Wind- Hybrid Systems for Mumbai Skyscrapers....it is haappening!!


Another solution I can suggest to Mumbai to meet the power crisis ( as a simple step) is the use of Solar-Wind Hybrid Systems, especially in skyscrapers. Don't be amazed by the fact that New Mumbai already having about 30 inastallations of solar-Wind hybrid systems, providing renewable energy to Mumbaikars. These systems will be designed in such a way that either of the source (wind or solar) will work at a time. The day may be not far away when one will see small-scale turbines whirring away perched atop multi-storied buildings, tall structures, or even empty spaces between tall structures to take advantage of what is known as speedup effect on rooftops or the tunnel effect due to orientation of buildings in the predominant wind direction. Wind speed is actually increases by about 30%–35% above the rooftops of high-rise buildings. Several small turbines can be installed to take advantage of this phenomenon.

All these Wind-PV Hybrid Systems are mainly used for lighting up the corridors and for emergency lighting of flats. If planned in the properly, this can at least light up all the inmates with some emergency lighting and single fan for eah house in that particular skyscraper where it is installed. However the extend of electrification depends on the size of the installation and wind speed. According the Wind Map of India, Maharashtra is getting good wind energy. At heights ( top of the skyscrapers) it will be sufficient for some electricity generation.Since usually the skyscrapers are having enough height for getting adequate wind up to 5 m/s this is a very good alternative. A 650 Watts Small Wind Generator can generate 115 units of electricity at 18% PLF ( Plant Load Factor); a 1500Watts Wind machine can generate 278 units at 25% PLF and a 3300 Watta Wind Generator can generate 568 units at 25 % pLF. It will be a little bit lower for 4 m/s wind speed and accordingly PLF will come down. But by hybridising with Solar PV we can keep the battery bank alive always.

Conclusion

No doubt to say that Mumbai needs big power; but how we consume the power intelligently is the question now. We should conserve the electricity by adopting various energy conservation methods. At the same time we can have small decentralised solutions by harnessing renewable sources of power like solar water heaters, solar-wind hybrid systems etc. We are always in the lead in this direction by constituting a seperate Ministry (MNRE- Ministry for New & Renewable Energy) in the country which exclusively deals with Renewable Sources of Energy. Yes; if we utilise the renewable sources of energy wherever we can and implement some agressive energy conservation measures, a lot of energy can be saved, not only in Mumbai alone, but in all parts of the country as well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Breakthrough in CIGS based Thin Film Solar Modules


Much had been heard about the Thin-film CIGS-based solar cells and the related research going on. University of Delaware, U.S.A has done a break through in the manufacturing process where the solar cell sheets are created by depositing copper-indium-gallium-diselinide (CIGS) on a 10-inch polymer web.


According to the University of Delaware's Institute of Energy Conversion (IEC), they have developed new technology for the manufacture of flexible solar cells, which could reduce the costs associated with the use of photovoltaic energy while at the same time expanding possible applications.


The system, in which there has been commercial interest, enables the more efficient manufacture of the flexible solar cells in long sheets using roll-to-roll reactors, much like newsprint speeding through a press.


As such, the system allows "extremely high production throughputs, thus reducing manufacturing costs," according to Erten Eser, associate scientist at IEC.


It also provides for lightweight and flexible solar cell panels that could find interest in the space, military and recreational markets. For standard applications, the solar cells can also be encapsulated into a more traditional rigid structure. By being flexible, the solar cells can conform to different surfaces. "This is particularly important for roofing applications for building integration, and for airships and balloons."


The solar cell sheets are created by depositing copper-indium-gallium-diselinide, which the IEC scientists call CIGS, on a 10-inch wide polymer web, which is then processed into the flexible solar cells. CIGS solar cells are currently the only thin-film technology that has achieved efficiencies comparable to silicon solar cells, presently the standard of the industry.


However, IEC has evaluated the quality of CIGS on the molybdenum-coated web by characterizing the uniformity of the film. Researchers found that average solar cell conversion efficiencies of 10 percent were achieved.


Thin-film CIGS-based solar cells have a multi-layer structure stacked on a substrate, in this case a high-temperature polyimide substrate that is coated with molybdenum, CIGS, cadmium sulfide, zinc oxide and indium tin oxide, according to the scientists,


"Through this all the component films of this structure can easily be processed on flexible substrates .In fact, CIGS is the most difficult layer because of high substrate temperature and thermal deposition from four different elemental sources, since this process results in the best performing solar cells."


This achievement is important because "it demonstrates the feasibility of the most challenging part of the overall process."


Other thin-film solar cells also can be made into flexible form, citing the amorphous silicon family of cells. "They are in the marketplace but have limited applications due to their low efficiencies," According to Eser.


Cadmium-telluride-based solar cells have "too many high temperature process steps to be easily made onto flexible substrates. They also require that light enter the device through the substrates, which requires the substrates to be transparent. "At the present time, high-temperature, transparent and flexible substrates are not available" for cadmium-telluride-based solar cells.


IEC researchers started developing flexible CIGS in 1995 as part of a consortium through a multi-year program funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is the primary research and development arm of the Department of Defense, said Eser.


"Presently we are at a stage where we can make flexible CIGS of 10-inches in width and 50 feet in length, and which demonstrates efficiencies around 10 percent," according to Eser.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Evolution of Hydrogen Economy


How Hydrogen Economy Works:


It seems like every day there is a new announcement in the news about automobiles powered by fuel cells. The promises are tantalizing, since fuel cells have the potential to very quickly double the efficiency of cars while significantly reducing air pollution.

At the same time, there have been news stories for decades about the problems associated with petroleum. Everything from oil spills to ozone alerts to global warming gets blamed on our dependence on fossil fuels.


These two forces are leading the world toward what is broadly known as the hydrogen economy. If the predictions are true, over the next several decades we will all begin to see an amazing shift away from the fossil fuel economy we have today toward a much cleaner hydrogen future.
Can society actually make this shift, or will the technological, economic and political barriers keep us bound to petroleum and other fossil fuels for the next century and beyond? In this article, you will learn about the benefits of a hydrogen economy, along with its potential problems. We will also examine some of the technology that would make the transition possible.


Problems with the Fossil Fuel Economy:


Currently, the United States and most of the world is locked into what could be called the fossil fuel economy. Our automobiles, trains and planes are fueled almost exclusively by petroleum products like gasoline and diesel. A huge percentage of our power plants use oil, natural gas and coal for their fuel.

If the flow of fossil fuels to the United States were ever cut off, the economy would come to a halt. There would be no way to transport the products that factories produce. There would be no way for people to drive to work. The whole economy, and in fact the whole of western society, currently depends on fossil fuels.


While fossil fuels have played an important role in getting society to the point it is at today, there are four big problems that fossil fuels create:


Air pollution - When cars burn gasoline, they would ideally burn it perfectly and create nothing but carbon dioxide and water in their exhaust. Unfortunately, the internal combustion engine is not perfect. In the process of burning the gasoline, it also produces: Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas Nitrogen oxides, the main source of urban smog Unburned hydrocarbons, the main source of urban ozone Catalytic converters eliminate much of this pollution, but they aren't perfect. Air pollution from cars and power plants is a real problem in big cities. It is bad enough now that, in the summer, many cities have dangerous levels of ozone in the air.


Environmental pollution - The process of transporting and storing oil has a big impact on the environment whenever something goes wrong. An oil spill, pipeline explosion or well fire can create a huge mess. The Exxon Valdez spill is the best known example of the problem, but minor spills happen constantly.


Global warming - When you burn a gallon of gas in your car, you emit about 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of carbon into the atmosphere. If it were solid carbon, it would be extremely noticeable -- it would be like throwing a 5-pound bag of sugar out the window of your car for every gallon of gas burned. But because the 5 pounds of carbon comes out as an invisible gas, carbon dioxide, most of us are oblivious to it. The carbon dioxide coming out of every car's tailpipe is a greenhouse gas that is slowly raising the temperature of the planet. The ultimate effects are unknown, but it is a strong possibility that, eventually, there will be dramatic climate changes that affect everyone on the planet. For example, if the ice caps melt, sea level will rise significantly, flooding and destroying all coastal cities in existence today. That's a big side effect.


Dependence - The United States, and most other countries, cannot produce enough oil to meet demand, so they import it from oil-rich countries. That creates an economic dependence. When Middle East oil producers decide to raise the price of oil, the rest of the world has little choice but to pay the higher price.


Advantages of Hydrogen Economy:


In the previous section we saw the significant, worldwide problems created by fossil fuels. The hydrogen economy promises to eliminate all of the problems that the fossil fuel economy creates. Therefore, the advantages of the hydrogen economy include: The elimination of pollution caused by fossil fuels - When hydrogen is used in a fuel cell to create power, it is a completely clean technology. The only byproduct is water. There are also no environmental dangers like oil spills to worry about with hydrogen.

The elimination of greenhouse gases - If the hydrogen comes from the electrolysis of water, then hydrogen adds no greenhouse gases to the environment. There is a perfect cycle -- electrolysis produces hydrogen from water, and the hydrogen recombines with oxygen to create water and power in a fuel cell.


The elimination of economic dependence - The elimination of oil means no dependence on the Middle East and its oil reserves.


Distributed production - Hydrogen can be produced anywhere that you have electricity and water. People can even produce it in their homes with relatively simple technology. The problems with the fossil fuel economy are so great, and the environmental advantages of the hydrogen economy so significant, that the push toward the hydrogen economy is very strong.


Technology Hurdles:


The big question with the hydrogen economy is, "Where does the hydrogen come from?" After that comes the question of transporting, distributing and storing hydrogen. Hydrogen tends to be bulky and tricky in its natural gaseous form. Once both of these questions are answered in an economical way, the hydrogen economy will be in place.

We'll look at each of these questions separately in the following sections.


Where does the Hydrogen come from:


One of the more interesting problems with the hydrogen economy is the hydrogen itself. Where will it come from? With the fossil fuel economy, you simply pump the fossil fuel out of the ground and refine it. Then you burn it as an energy source. Most of us take oil, gasoline, coal and natural gas for granted, but they are actually quite miraculous. These fossil fuels represent stored solar energy from millions of years ago. Millions of years ago, plants grew using solar energy to power their growth. They died, and eventually turned into oil, coal and natural gas. When we pump oil from the ground, we tap into that huge solar energy storehouse "for free." Whenever we burn a gallon of gasoline, we release that stored solar energy.

In the hydrogen economy, there is no storehouse to tap into. We have to actually create the energy in real-time.


There are two possible sources for the hydrogen:


Electrolysis of water - Using electricity, it is easy to split water molecules to create pure hydrogen and oxygen. One big advantage of this process is that you can do it anywhere. For example, you could have a box in your garage producing hydrogen from tap water, and you could fuel your car with that hydrogen.


Reforming fossil fuels - Oil and natural gas contain hydrocarbons -- molecules consisting of hydrogen and carbon. Using a device called a fuel processor or a reformer, you can split the hydrogen off the carbon in a hydrocarbon relatively easily and then use the hydrogen. You discard the leftover carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The second option is, of course, slightly perverse. You are using fossil fuel as the source of hydrogen for the hydrogen economy. This approach reduces air pollution, but it doesn't solve either the greenhouse gas problem (because there is still carbon going into the atmosphere) or the dependence problem (you still need oil). However, it may be a good temporary step to take during the transition to the hydrogen economy. When you hear about "fuel-cell-powered vehicles" being developed by the car companies right now, almost all of them plan to get the hydrogen for the fuel cells from gasoline using a reformer. The reason is because gasoline is an easily available source of hydrogen. Until there are "hydrogen stations" on every corner like we have gas stations now, this is the easiest way to obtain hydrogen to power a vehicle's fuel cell. The interesting thing about the first option is that it is the core of the real hydrogen economy. To have a pure hydrogen economy, the hydrogen must be derived from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels so that we stop releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Having enough electricity to separate hydrogen from water, and generating that electricity without using fossil fuels, will be the biggest change that we see in creating the hydrogen economy.


Where will the electricity for the electrolysis of water come from? Right now, about 68 percent (reference) of the electricity produced in the United States comes from coal or natural gas. All of that generating capacity will have to be replaced by renewable sources in the hydrogen economy. In addition, all of the fossil fuel energy now used for transportation (in cars, trucks, trains, boats, planes) will have to convert to hydrogen, and that hydrogen will be created with electricity, as well. In other words, the electrical generating capacity in the country will have to double in order to take on the demands of transportation, and then it will all have to convert from fossil fuels to renewable sources. At that point, and only at that point, will the flow of carbon into the atmosphere stop.


Right now there are several different ways to create electricity that do not use fossil fuels:
Nuclear power Hydroelectric dams Solar cells Wind turbines Geothermal power Wave and tidal power Co-generation (For example, a sawmill might burn bark to create power, or a landfill might burn methane that the rotting trash produces.)


In the future, barring some technological breakthrough, it seems likely that one of two things will happen to create the hydrogen economy: Either nuclear-power or solar-power generating capacity will increase dramatically. Remember that, in a pure hydrogen economy, the electrical generating capacity will have to approximately double because all of the energy for transportation that currently comes from oil will have to be replaced with electrically generated hydrogen. So the number of power plants will double, and all of the fossil fuel plants will be replaced.


The electrical-generation problem is probably the biggest barrier to the hydrogen economy. Once the technology is refined and becomes inexpensive, fuel-cell vehicles powered by hydrogen could replace gasoline internal combustion engines over the course of a decade or two. But changing the power plants over to nuclear and solar may not be so easy. Nuclear power has political and environmental problems, and solar power currently has cost and location problems.


Storing and Transportation of Hydrogen:


At this moment, the problem with putting pure-hydrogen vehicles on the road is the storage/transportation problem. Hydrogen is a bulky gas, and it is not nearly as easy to work with as gasoline. Compressing the gas requires energy, and compressed hydrogen contains far less energy than the same volume of gasoline. However, solutions to the hydrogen storage problem are surfacing. For example, hydrogen can be stored in a solid form in a chemical called sodium borohydride, and this technology has appeared in the news recently because Chrysler is testing it. This chemical is created from borax (a common ingredient in some detergents). As sodium borohydride releases its hydrogen, it turns back into borax so it can be recycled.

Once the storage problem is solved and standardized, then a network of hydrogen stations and the transportation infrastructure will have to develop around it. The main barrier to this might be the technological sorting-out process. Stations will not develop quickly until there is a storage technology that clearly dominates the marketplace. For instance, if all hydrogen-powered cars from all manufacturers used sodium borohydride, then a station network could develop quickly; that sort of standardization is unlikely to happen rapidly, if history is any guide.


There might also be a technological breakthrough that could rapidly change the playing field. For example, if someone could develop an inexpensive rechargeable battery with high capacity and a quick recharge time, electric cars would not need fuel cells and there would be no need for hydrogen on the road. Cars would recharge using electricity directly.


Prospects for the Future:


Prospects for the futureYou will hear more and more about the hydrogen economy in the news in the coming months, because the drumbeat is growing louder. The environmental problems of the fossil fuel economy are combining with breakthroughs in fuel-cell technology, and the pairing will allow us to take the first steps. The most obvious step we will see is the marketing of fuel-cell-powered vehicles. Although they will be powered initially by gasoline and reformers, fuel cells embody two major improvements over the internal combustion engine:



  • They are about twice as efficient.


  • They can significantly reduce air pollution in cities.


Gasoline-powered fuel-cell vehicles are an excellent transitional step because of those advantages. Moving to a pure hydrogen economy will be harder. The power-generating plants will have to switch over to renewable sources of energy, and the marketplace will have to agree on ways to store and transport hydrogen. These hurdles will likely cause the transition to the hydrogen economy to be a rather long process.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Thin Film Solar Modules


The combination of better materials, the evolution of thin-film transistor technology, and new production methods is establishing thin-film and organic photovoltaics as a hot area for investment. Recent market forecast and analysis carried out by my firm NanoMarkets LC, indicates that revenues from PV modules that use materials such as thin-film amorphous silicon, CIS/CIGS, cadmium telluride, small molecules, polymers or organic dyes will reach $2.3 billion by 2011. Meanwhile, at least one thin-film PV firm is already attempting to raise investment valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars and all this activity may have finally refuted the old complaint against the PV industry that it does not invest enough in R&D.

Why is thin-film PV taking off now? It has been around for more than a decade and until quite recently its main claim to fame has been as the key enabler for solar powered calculators. Today, however, thin-film is benefiting from a "perfect storm" of market drivers. Solar power of all kinds is attracting considerable interest, because of high prices and dire predictions for continued reliance on fossil fuels. And thin-film PV is getting particular attention, in part, because it gets around the current shortage of silicon that the traditional PV market is currently experiencing.

But even perfect storms pass. The shortage of silicon is certainly not a forever kind of thing and it would be no surprise to see some of the current investor enthusiasm for alternative energy begin to fade as oil prices stabilize and more efficient ways of extracting and using fossil fuels are developed.

Nonetheless, even such short-term drivers can have long-term implications. If the current interest in thin-film and organic PV leaves manufacturers flush with cash, then they will be able to invest in new production technology and that will push up all-important conversion efficiencies and reduce costs per watt. Trends have been encouraging in this regard. CIGS, for example, now has efficiencies that are fairly comparable to crystalline silicon PV. Most of the thin-film PV firms we talked with for the NanoMarkets report were claiming recent improvements in production technology that were leading to higher throughputs and higher yields or both. This is critical because one of the reasons that thin-film PV has not taken off in the way that it was first hoped is that the production processes being used for this type of technology have added costs that have all but removed the advantages that thin-film materials were capable of offering intrinsically.

A radically new direction for creating PV is represented by printing. "Printing" in this case, may mean either traditional printing technologies that have been associated with graphics printing for decades or centuries. Or it may mean ink-jet printing. Not all materials lend themselves to this approach, though. It is particularly associated with organic materials. However, at least one firm is pursuing the goal of a silicon ink. Printing will supposedly bring down the cost of PV in a radical new way, ultimately resulting in orders of magnitude and improvements in cost per watt.
Lower costs are likely to play a role in driving thin-film into the numerous markets already served by PV -- everything from power for emergency medical facilities to power for boats. However, when one examines the cost advantages of thin-film PV over traditional PV and balances them against efficiency and material stability, it is hard to conclude that marketers in this space should stress cost alone. Instead, our research in this area suggests that what will drive the thin-film PV market as much as anything else is its unique characteristics in terms of flexibility, weight and ability to integrate into other products.

This helps explain why so many of the thin-film PV firms are focused on building products into which PV is integrated. Not only are the trinity of flexibility, weight and integration-ease likely to be key performance factors required by the integrated building products market, but the potential size of this market is large in terms energy consumption, which translates into many square feet of solar modules sold. Similar considerations also apply to the use of thin-film PV in the military and emergency systems market. Light, flexible and easily integrated product attributes work well here too. But the target market is much lower than for the integrated building market. This may be offset somewhat by the value placed on PV for these products and the willingness of customers to pay a premium for products.

The most controversial issue is whether PV will be able to address the burgeoning need for power in mobile electronics. As more and more features are added to cell phones and as end users expect notebook computers to offer about the same performance levels as desktop computers, improvements in energy density expected from the standard lithium-ion batteries now used ubiquitously in mobile devices are being strained. PV battery boosters and chargers therefore now look like an attractive addressable market and could only be built from thin-film or organic materials, not from crystalline silicon. Thin-film battery boosters and chargers have existed for some time, but have tended to be expensive low-volume products aimed at the emergency medical, military and similar markets. What appears to be needed now is a very low cost product that might even be integrated directly into cell phones, for example.


Our Global Warming fears


In India, weather-related natural disasters already cause annual chaos.

Two months ago, whole regions of West Bengal disappeared under water - rescue workers had to use boats to give emergency help to more than 16 million affected people.

These were the worst floods for more than 20 years. Several factors were blamed - from silted riverbeds to mismanagement of resources. But could global warming also have played a part?
Journalist Nirmal Ghosh firmly believes global warming is going to cause far more chaos across India in the future.

"Global warming is going to make other small local environmental issues... seem like peanuts, because it is the big one which is going to come and completely change the face of the Earth.
"We're talking about mass migrations because of changing weather. That will have implications on politics. There are states in India which are fighting court cases over water," Mr Ghosh says.

Shrinking glaciers

As well as floods, India also suffers acute water shortages - earlier this year the western state of Rajasthan was struck by drought. Nirmal Ghosh says the steady shrinking of Himalayan glaciers means the entire water system is being disrupted - global warming, he says, will cause even greater extremes"Statistically, it is proven that the Himalayan glaciers are actually shrinking, and within 50 to 60 years they will virtually run out of producing the water levels that we are seeing now.

"This will cut down drastically the water available downstream, and in agricultural economies like the plains of UP (Uttar Pradesh) and Bihar, which are poor places to begin with. This is probably going to, over a short period of time, cause tremendous social upheaval," he says. Not everyone agrees. Some scientists say the glaciers have been shrinking for decades and other factors are to blame.

Certainly, India has a long history of extreme weather patterns - and extremes of temperature across the continent. So is it too simplistic to blame global warming just because recent floods and droughts have been acute?

West blamed

Dr RR Kelkar, the director general of the Indian meteorological department, says it is too early for accurate data to be available yet.
"India is a tropical country, we must remember that. We are used to hot environments, we are used to heavy rains, we are used to cyclones, and really there is no clear statistically significant trend that things are going to change drastically.

There is a need now for scientists to probe into them and find out how they will be affecting us - but one of the problems is that these models are sometimes converted into scary stories which is something we shouldn't fall for," Dr Kelkar says.

Scary stories or not, there are also concerns that knowledge being gathered about the impact of global warming is controlled by the West. Scientists in the subcontinent do not always have the resources available to challenge data being compiled by developed countries. Professor SK Sinha is a specialist at the water technology centre at the Pusa Institute. He accuses the West, and in particular the United States, of manipulating the debate.

"They make the rules. In fact, they even lure people from the developing countries to substantiate or to confirm that data, not necessarily always with very valid equipments and arguments," he says.

Cyclones, floods and droughts aren't in themselves new - but how much is global warming likely to worsen them, and how far will countries like India be able to influence the global debate?

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