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Geothermal Energy Gathers Steam in India

Geothermal energy is getting popular among the Indian energy companies and government policymakers. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy had commissioned a research, development and demonstration program involving geothermal energy. The program aimed at locating the potential geothermal energy exploration sites in several states across the country.

The program covered states like Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Many of these states have confirmed the identification of geothermal potential sites. Some of the most active geothermal sites are believed to be located in Jammu & Kashmir with significant resources potentially present in Himachal Pradesh and in central India.

Thermax, a capital goods manufacturer based in Pune, has entered an agreement with Icelandic firm Reykjavík Geothermal. Thermax is planning to set up a 3 MW pilot project in Puga Valley, Ladakh (Jammu & Kashmir). Reykjavík Geothermal will assist Thermax in exploration and drilling of the site.

Ladakh is one of the remotest locations in India. With almost no availability of basic amenities such as food, ration and electricity the inhabitants are almost completely dependent on goods imported from other states and power generated from diesel generators. The villages in this mountainous region are so far apart that connecting them all through transmission lines is practically and economically unfeasible.

Therefore, a local resource which is available around the year seems to be the only solution for the power woes of this region.

India’s first fully-operational commercial geothermal power plant is likely to come up in 2012 in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The plant will be set up by GeoSyndicate Power Private Limited, a company backed by the Indian Institue of Technology (Bombay). The company has already entered in a Power Purchase Agreement with a local power distribution company through the Non-conventional Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh.

India’s largest industrial group, Tata Sons, is also planning to foray into geothermal energy-based power generation. Tata Power is planning to invest in geothermal power plants in the state of Gujarat. Tata Power has elaborate plans to invest in various renewable energy options like solar energy and wind energy. Since the government of Gujarat has a favorable policy towards investments in renewable energy-based power generation sector, Gujarat has a special place in Tata Power’s green energy expansion.

Significantly, Tata Power bought 10 percent stake in Australian enhanced geothermal systems firm Geodynamics for $37 million.

Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi recently announced that his government would soon announce geothermal energy-centered power generation policy to attract investments from Indian as well as foreign companies.

According to the research conducted by D. Chandrasekharam, Professor and Head — Department of Earth Sciences, IIT Bombay, the estimated power generation capacity of geothermal resources in India is about 10,600 MW. Geothermal energy has not been taken seriously by the Indian government.

However, with the announcement of National Action Plan on Climate Change in 2008, which contained broad policy directives for promotion of renewable energy infrastructure, several Indian and foreign companies have showed increased interest in green technologies. The investors are expecting that the government would offer financial incentives to geothermal energy-based power plants as well and therefore several companies are getting attracted to this sector which seems to have a promising future.

Image: Stuck in Customs/CC

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Written By

Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

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