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What Can "I" Do about Global Warming? PDF Print E-mail

 

Solar Panels

It is generally acknowledged that Global Warming or Climate Change (as some people prefer to call it nowadays) is causing "Extreme Weather." Most recently: in 2018, the floods in Kerala, in Chennai in 2015, in Kashmir in 2014 and Uttarakhand in 2013.

What can I as an individual do about it? First we need to understand the problem.

Greenhouse Gases:

Most Sensible Scientists agree that Global Warming is caused by an increase of Greenhouse Gases.

Namely:

  1. Carbon dioxide: mostly from fossil fuel combustion.
  2. Methane: mostly from cattle "farts", rice paddies, swamps and tundra.
  3. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): mostly from Refrigerators, Air Conditioning and plastic foams.
  4. Nitrous Oxide mostly from Fertilizer use and Fossil Fuel Combustion.
  5. Ozone: mostly from reactions involving pollutants.

Carbon dioxide is the biggest culprit, but CFCs are 10,000 times more "effective" in causing Global Warming.

So from this information we can understand that the burning of Fossil Fuels in Electric Power Stations, in large sea going vessels, in locomotives, in lorries and cars must be reduced as much as possible and as soon as possible.

Solar Photo-Voltaic (SPV) electric panels and large wind generators are increasingly being set up in various locations in India to produce electricity for the grid. Even better if SPV panels and wind generators are decentralized. That means they provide electricity for a particular local purpose, such as for a school, a college or a factory. This is happening here and there, but could happen much more; because, when electricity is transmitted over long distances much of it is lost "in transmission."

Decentralized Energy Production" is best. Bear in mind that Coal-fired Electric Power Stations are highly polluting, so the sooner we have Renewables such as SPV and wind generators, the better. In the absence of bright Sun and Wind, nowadays there are modern technologies for the storage of electricity.

All these technologies can be described as Appropriate Technologies and since there is sense in not "keeping all your eggs in one basket," you may be interested to know that James Lovelock, known as the father of the Green Movement, is in favour of well-managed Nuclear Power. But not all scientists would agree with him, especially in India, where we have so much sun and in certain locations plenty of wind too.

Appropriate Technologies?

We are given many pieces of advice."Take public transport. Switch off the lights. Don't waste water", etc. , but what is more seriously required is for us human beings to understand that although technologies are clever and often beautiful, they also require the Mining of precious minerals of Planet Earth and plenty of Energy in their creation and use. Also they usually produce pollution when used.

We should be more critical and decide which technologies are kind to Nature, the Planet and all beings and which we need to avoid as much as possible. We can discuss and have different points of view but surely it is very important to realise that Appropriate Technologies are a Very Good Idea. In future, we will explore many different Appropriate Technologies that will do least harm to Planet Earth and all her Beings.

But what about Me in my House, What can I Do?

Check every electrical appliance in your house. What is its consumption in Watts? Nowadays one can buy 7 watt LED bulbs, I am writing by the light of one 9 watt bulb hanging from the roof above me. For bathrooms and corridors, a 5 or 7 watt bulb is sufficient.

Work out how many hours each day you use each appliance so you may end up with a table like so:

Item/Location Wattage Time Watt-hours
Light: Bedroom. 9W ½ hour 4 ½ Wh
Light: Hall and Kitchen. 9W 3 ½ hour 31 ½ Wh
Light: Bathroom, Toilet, Corridor. 5W Total 1 hour 5 Wh
Water Pump ½ HP. 375W 20 minutes 124 Wh
T.V. 56W 1 hour 56 Wh
Fridge. 150W 12 hours 1800 Wh
Fan. 70W 8 hours 560 Wh
Laptop. 85W 1 hour charging 85 Wh
Washing Machine: Twin Tub. 350W ½ hour 175 Wh
Mixi 600W 10 minutes 100 Wh
Mobile 20W 1 ½ hour charging 30 Wh
Total Consumed per day 2971 Wh



Just a minute, you may ask, "Watt is a what?" A Watt is a measurement of electrical consumption. Multiply: Volts x Amps = Watts.

VA = W.

So if your water pump is ½ Horse Power (1 HP=746 watts) the pump consumes: 373 watts. If it runs for 20 minutes a day, it consumes:

373 x 20 ÷ 60 watt-hours = 124 Wh.

Got it?

An average fridge consumes 150 watts (look on the back-plate, it will say 150 VA or 150 W). Depending on the weather, the thermostat and how often it is opened, a fridge usually runs for 12 hours a day. So we estimate your fridge uses 150 x 12 watt-hours = 1800 Wh. That's a lot.

Now every human being is different, we also live with other people! So think carefully about the table above since the Fridge consumes 2/3rd of all the electricity consumed; you may decide to exclude the fridge. At Sholai School we had a separate electrical circuit to run a 24 Volt Solar Fridge. It used 65 Watts and ran for 16 years. Then we had to rebuild it and have to wait for a special "Direct Current" Compressor from Europe.

But we live in the hills and can manage without a fridge for some time. You may think differently.

The Cost ?!

Well, now you are going to ask me what will all this cost?!

I consulted the experts: Subhash and Jigar. They tell me you will need 4 nos. Solar Photo-Voltaic electric panels of 240 Watts each. They used to cost Rs. 11,000 each. Now they cost Rs. 13,500, so 4 SPV panels will cost Rs. 54,000. They will deliver: 4 x 240 = 960 Watts. You can expect on average the equivalent of 5 hours of peak sunshine per day. So that is approximately 4800 watt-hours or 4.8 kilowatt-hours per day.

Don't start comparing solar electricity with consumption of electricity at home! Why? Because you are going to be abstemious ! Why? Because in that way your batteries will last for many years to come. Some of our batteries lasted for 11 years.

When we began Sholai School we had 4 SPV panels of 35 watts each. Yes! Just 35 Watts and 2 jeep batteries. We used our SPV system to watch TV at night and to charge a massive green laptop. When it was cloudy: No TV! Lights? No chance! We used Kerosene Mantle lamps (very difficult to manage) and a Petromax: noisy and also difficult. The poor hard-working batteries were worn out after 2 years.

You will also need to buy 4 nos. Solar Batteries, an Inverter and a Solar Charge Controller to protect the batteries. It is also called an MPPT (a Multi-Point Power Tracker).

The Inverter

"Hey just a minute, I understand that an MPPT protects the batteries from being overcharged or discharged more than 50%, but what is an Inverter?

"NIOS Answer": you see the batteries are "DC" that is: they store Direct Current electricity. They have positive and negative terminals. But most of our appliances are "AC 220-240 Volts" which means that the electricity (produced by spinning generators) alternates between +230 Volts and -230 Volts, 50 times a second. Good Lord ! So we need an electronic machine, an Inverter to convert 24 Volts DC current to 230 Volts AC. Hence:

4 nos. 150 Ah Batteries @ Rs. 15,000: Rs. 60,000
An 800 Watt Inverter: Rs. 60,000
An MPPT: Rs. 25,000
4 Nos. 240 Watt SPV: Rs. 54,000
Cables: Rs.  6,000

Total (GST included) Rs. 2,05,000


Well many of you may say that's too much! But remember when your house is "off the grid," that means you are no longer dependant on the electricity supplied by the Government, which mostly derives from fossil fuels: that is coal and oil which are causing Global Warming. But still you may protest: the cost is too much.

Alright then, do what we did. In 1989 we started with 4 nos. x 35 Watt SPV panels, then in 1993 we bought 25 nos. x 35 Watt SPV and so on. 2 years ago we purchased 14 nos. 240 Watt SPV. Our batteries usually last on average for 7 years, so we have to send them for recycling and buy more. But it works out much, much cheaper than paying electricity bills.

Cheaper ?

At Sholai the Boys' and the Girls' Hostels do not have Inverters, because all the lights are DC. Furthermore one can buy a 12 Volt DC charger for a mobile and one can buy a 12 Volt fan. (At 1140 metres altitude, we don't need fans and the students don't have mobiles). But most other appliances cannot be used because they are AC, so that is why we have included the inverter. However if you are enthusiastic and cannot afford an inverter, you can create a system like our Hostels and then later fit an inverter.

Without the Fridge ?

If you can exclude the Fridge, then your total daily consumption of electricity will drop down to 772 watts-hours. The Inverter being 90% efficient will increase that amount to 772 divided by 90% = 865 Watts-hours.

Two 240 Watt SPV panels (Rs. 27,000) and two 150 Ah Solar Batteries (Rs.30,000) would be just enough to provide you with the 865 watts of electricity you are likely to need each day. But do be watchful and abstemious. Switch off any appliance that is not required. So for The Abstemious who can manage with just a little electricity and who are aware of the 500 million people in India who are "Below the Poverty Line":

2 nos. 240 Watt SPV panels cost: Rs. 27,000
2 nos. 150 AH Solar Batteries cost: Rs. 30,000
The MPPT costs: Rs. 25,000
The Inverter costs: Rs. 60,000
Cables cost: Rs.  2,000

Total Rs. 1,44,000


Do be careful about Inverters. They can be 93% efficient and function reliably and efficiently for many years. Or: once we were gifted three foreign inverters, all of which never worked at all !

Locally-made inverters, Rishi tells me, are never more than 60% efficient. That means, if you leave your inverter on when you have little need of it, then it will run down your battery. Your system may become inefficient.

The Fridge Again ?

I told my generous expert: Subhash that at Sholai we have an LPG fridge which has worked for years and which can be converted to Biogas. I am sorry to tell you, he shouted at me."How do you think the readers of your web-site will be able to get hold of such a fridge," he cried out, "And maintain it?" I kept quiet.

The Fridge is known as a "Vapour Absorption Fridge," it is a very simple system, and can be found in Motor Caravans, Caravans and Campers all over Europe and the USA!

I do hope you have the enthusiasm and the initiative to go ahead and create a solar electric system in your house, either perfect or modified to suit your pocket. You will then be much less a part of a huge number of human beings who are mindlessly and thoughtlessly creating increasing climate changes and global warming disasters into a sorrowful future.

~ M. V. Duraipandy (October 2018)