Investment in clean energy projects is going up worldwide. According to an estimate by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, new funds for wind, solar, biofuel and other low-carbon energy technologies increased 16 percent to $310 billion in 2014 (the first growth since 2011).
It is believed to be the solution for worsening consequences of climate change. And scientists have been clamoring to expedite expansion of such projects to stave off the predicted climate catastrophe. But how secure are clean energy projects, particularly solar, against nature’s destructive forces?
Last October Hudhud, a cyclone which struck India’s east coast, took a toll on rooftop solar installations. The wind plucked photovoltaic panels and water heating systems off their moorings and flung them afar. It also damaged associated infrastructure. And, according to a report in the English daily The Hindu, the systems took thrice the time it took installing them.
The United States has been taking efforts to create a more resilient grid since 2011, particularly with the rise in hurricanes and other destructive weather phenomena each year both in number and power.
According to a report submitted in 2013 by the US president’s council of economic advisers severe weather was the single leading cause of power outages in the US. “Outages caused by severe weather such as thunderstorms, hurricanes and blizzards account for 58 percent of outages observed since 2002 and 87 percent of outages affecting 50,000 or more customers. In all, 679 wides pread outages occurred between 2003 and 2012 due to severe weather,” the report reads.
Data from the US Energy Information Administration, too, shows that weather-related outages have increased significantly since 1992.
The state of preparedness of India’s renewable energy sector, specifically in terms of grid resilience, could not be verified. E-mails to the MNRE secretary and Powergrid CMD have not been answered yet.
The Indian government has set itself the target of 175 gigawatts of clean energy capacity by 2022. It also recently announced the setting up of a national renewable energy grid involving seven states. However, information is inadequate on what measures are to be taken to improve resilience of the grid in India.
The state of preparedness of grids in other nations to survive natural disasters as well as such contingency as a terrorist attack is also unclear in the absence of verifiable data. In general, it appears safe to surmise that current systems aren’t robust in terms of their ability to withstand disasters.
Ajith Kumar S