Incredible Power cuts!

Posted by Tandarin Nike Wednesday, September 22, 2010 9:08 PM
Eleven outages of various lengths in the space of 13 hours that has left the pathetic UPS of my friend absolutely bone-dry and totally incapable of riding even something as small as a single voltage blip!

What a life..?

What's a guy to do? Especially one who has seen no outages abroad since 2006.

It's very difficult to think about working from home these days here in India, as the power backup offered by the generators in the apartment complex in question here in South India is abysmal (just one light each in the hall and the kitchen) given the kind of erratic power supply we are fortunate enough to have been bestowed upon ourselves. God... please HELP us.

One option for my dear friend is to work on a laptop. It's time to get a new battery for that aging office ThinkPad he uses. The damn thing doesn't even last 45 minutes now, and not even that much if there is lots of disk activity such as during boot-up.

However, I see no reason in spending roughly 2 to 3k INR on a battery for a laptop that won't even fetch him a few hundred bucks. Anyway, the machine belongs to the office so he probably does not have to worry too much about this aspect, although I'd rather use a newer machine with faster hardware.

Secondly, I simply do not enjoy programming on a pathetic 1024x768 15" screen, and definitely not with the 1920x1200 I can get from my Dell 24" LCD (back home). However, that LCD needs power, again, and loads of it (at least compared to a laptop screen). With the UPS low on reserve power, hooking up the LCD to the laptop is again not a smooth option for sure.

In the absence of efficient, mature solar panels that can consistently (i.e. irrespective of how bright/cloudy it is) deliver 300W of power and given current battery technology, what's a guy really to do if he wants to work from home? Shift to a different place in town (not very feasible and besides, many other factors come into play)? Use loads and loads of costly, inefficient solar panels and depend on utility power + UPS for the night (if needed)?

The long-term solution really is to have a battery technology that combines the advantages offered by lithium-ion batteries such as low size/weight, easy maintenance, quick charge times (compared to the kind of backup time they offer) and consistent output along with those of lead-acid batteries such as low cost and the ability to support a high power draw for a long time.

Such a technology would make millions here in India leap for joy but we're still a few years away, at best, from getting there. Though I must say, I have access to such technology and hardware in Bahrain.

My friend can probably get an inverter, but I don't know if the apartment owners' association would permit the usage of one, and in any case his main problem is not the rest of the appliances at home but only the computer, and during day time on a few days at that.

Besides, he would still be affected by the same problem he is facing now - of not enjoying 18 straight hours of uninterrupted power to keep his UPS batteries fully charged and capable of serving his machine's power needs for 1.5+ hours at a stretch (incredible ratio, isn't it?).

Don't ask me the details. I would definitely not do such a miserable setup specification/design. It's just crap when the suppliers here wringle their way through sales talk. I have had my good time designing and overseeing commissioning of in excess of 200KVA UPS's at single sites.

One thing for sure, there is incredible scope for young engineers who would like to take power engineering as a subject in India. That's both at research as well as commercial harware manufacture levels.

Wish I was twenty years younger to take the nation building task, as there is no other place on earth where such opportunities abound. India is the place to be in.

Hope young minds are reading this.....

5 Response to "Incredible Power cuts!"

  1. shivani Says:

    @Tandarin hope the young turks are listening.Back home where i belong Hamara Bihar...you will be shocked to know that excepting the capital city Patna none of the villages that i know of or have been to has any electricity.If at all there is then it may be pilfered by a very countable few but the supply is so irregular...still more shocking i was told it comes for only one or two hours per day.People generally use that power to lift water into their overhead tanks.
    God alone knows what's taking technology so long to make solar panels feasible and affordable.
    i dream of settling down finally in my own village...but looks like just like the rest i'll have to compromise and choose a city instead...for electricity and water.
    i hope the young Techies are listening and i hope they stay back and do something instead of dying to be green card holders of some foreign land...
    :( for the state of affairs and :) that you spoke well on a very very important problem India shining faces.

  2. Tandarin Nike Says:

    Thanks Shivani for your comment. The fact of the matter is that geo political scenario also is creating a lot of problems for India. The Iran-India gas pipeline would have really helped us role back some immediate deficiencies and would have had unimaginable gains for the next two decades. Meanwhile storage of electricity is an issue and is being worked on since sometime on a war footing. Lithium ion- Alkaline storage has shown great promise and probably with a few modifications can literally run a life time in future.
    I have some Nickel- Cadmium (with some Lithium ion additives)battery banks which have crossed thirty years of service life in the field. These are used as DC backup for our SCADA equipment. The only disadvantage is the colossal cost (It's at least fifteen times more expensive) compared to Lead-Acid batteries. Be rest assured that a lot of work is presently in place for energy deficiency correction worldwide. There is presently wind power, solar, sea waves, under water currents in large rivers harnessed for power, atomic power etc. Hopefully, in twenty odd years we will have in place a system wherein, this acute power shortage will be a thing of the past. This is where these young techies, as you spell them will play an important role. This will ensure good future both for them as well as the country on the whole.

  3. Ankush Naik Says:

    An absolutely eye opening post, an A-1 view on how bad it probably is living in much smaller towns/villages in India. Youngsters like me should definitely be in the forefront of affairs in running the country in the near future and taking it to higher levels. Also, I'm surprised why the Govt has not made us forcefully aware of this issue in IITs/ NITs and other deemed Institutes. This could definitely be food for thought for all of us. As 'Institutes of National Importance (INI)' the platform is right here to discuss and sort out at grass root levels all the nation's most important issues, including energy shortages. There are scores of us who just need a rightful direction. What better way, then to forcefully drive us to prosperity which is a win-win situation for the country as well as for all the aspiring engineers of this great country. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  4. Tandarin Nike Says:

    Thanks Ankush! Am happy that youngsters like you are made aware of the needs of our nation. It's goals which we all have to set as engineers within a time bound programme and rescue the nation from perennial energy shortages. With energy supplies assured, India will grow in bounds. Hope many like you join hands to really work in nation building with no prejudice and mellace in your minds. Hard work will definitely pay rich dividends. Here's wishing young budding engineers the best.

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