TATA power – Renewable and Decentralized Energy plans

Posted on April 26, 2011 by

Tata, the industrial giant across business footprint in diverse businesses ranging from steel to telecom, is in the process of beefing up its use of renewable power, with significant contribution from hydropower. TATA power is in development of 450 megawatts from hydro and 200 megawatts from wind.

Tata power is projecting growth from current capacity of 3,000MW to 25,000MW by 2020. But the ambitious plan is not limited to just the large centralized projects. It employs a portfolio approach with a number of not-so-high bets on clean-energy technologies in decentralized power generation. As a part of this strategic plan, Tata power has invested in an Austrlian company focused on geothermal energy, a concentrated solar power company and is also working on thin-film solar cells. Following paragraphs provide a number of examples of models attempted. Which of these will finally work for distributed energy technology remains to be seen.

1. One of the models TATA is working on involves farmers’ co-operative societies that sell agricultural residue to Tata operating a power generation unit selling power back to the community. The technology in this case is a simle biomass gasification system.

2. Tata has also invested in Sun Catalytix, a spin-out from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sun Catalytix has developed a relatively cheap catalyst that can split water to make oxygen and hydrogen, which can be used to make electricity in a fuel cell. Tata has invested in this company and hopes to commercialize their product. The product could be ready for testing later this year and be availble for commercialization in a few years time. If successful, the product can revolutionize electricity generation, making it directly from water and a solar cell.

3. Tata is also investing in algae biofuels project. This project will reduce carbon dioxide and provide the material for nutritional products and biofuel. Though reporting, reducing and managing carbon emissions is not a part of current regulatory or other mandate, a technology such as this could give a long-term strategic advantage.

Avinash Patkar, the Chief Sustainability Officer of Tata Power is quoted as saying

“It’s the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ idea: there are millions of people (who are potential customers) as long as you can customize a solution for them. We have not yet come up with a model that works…(but) there is a market here, profits to be made if we could come up with a good distributed power system.”

Source : http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20047974-54.html

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