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Power save is Power generated

I have worked for close to a decade in power generation industry. An industry in terms of complexity is next only to steel – which many call, “mother of all industries:” And yes, steel industry more likely than not always has a captive power generation facility as well. While it had been fun and highly enriching experience to contribute in the energy sector, it helped me explore the essence of power saving.

 

Power is a commodity which unfortunately cannot be stored and this is a paradox which makes us believe that we are not wasting it – because if we are not using it – it anyway gets wasted in terms of the famous “I” square loss. This understanding at the least is misplaced if not totally wrong. “I” square loss is an inherent loss in the power transmission and distribution value chain and to an extent is unavoidable (oh – yes I have read about superconductors which would eliminate the same – but other than simulated lab environment, the heavy weight usage of such drivers is all but ruled out at least in the forseable future).

 

Concept of meaningful power usage needs to established before understanding the true worth of power conservation. Lets assume that there is only one generation facility* generating 100 MW of power and there are 100 users downstream incl. industrial, agricultural and residential outfits. Adding all demands of these 100 users will be far in excess of 100 MW and thus one keep hearing that we are a power deficient Country in the first place. Now for the distribution facility to make these 100 consumers happy, is to go for load shedding. What it will do, is to divide the distribution to say 30 odd consumers in the agricultural/industrial sector in the day and 70 odd residential consumers in the night through periodic switching on/off the supply circuit to these facilities. Because, considering the load if it even try to give to 100 consumers at the same time – the grid will collapse on “high load:”. Generally a power generation facility can take as much as 5-7% load in peaking conditions and that too for a short duration. If a generation facility is subjected to peaking load more often – we are ultimately reducing the life of the facility. This basic understanding brings us to the meaningful power usage – use only what is meaningul so that the same 100 MW can be shared with majority of its consumers at the same time without needing load shediing. It would be also a big environmental boon because load shedding is the prime need for usage of fossil fuel related DG sets for stop gap arrangement which apart from its pollution hazards is a big nuisance to society.

 

Big office spaces are the biggest culprits of power wastage and it stems from lack of awareness and lack of commitment ( a bit of both). Some offices are lighted like a Las Vegas Casinos for better asthetic sense while some other have absolutely no control on lightings once the offices shut shop at the end of the day. Developed countries who encourage window shopping through transparent glass panes and multistoreyed manhattan buildings all lighted up in middle of night actually defies common-sense. It is knowledge bereft of actions.

 

Famous 80-20 rules applies for Power usage industry. 20% of the lot consumes 80% of the power if not more and statiscally, it is proven that 99% people who are not sensitized to power consumption feel that their drop of power save will never make an ocean when they see gross wastage everywhere incl. work place. Question which needs to be asked here is that who after all work and are in control of the 20% users of 80% electricity. Well, it’s the same people. An organization is by the people and no policy (even disciplinary) can ever be put in place towards power save regimens, it is the people everywhere who will have to rise to occasion and raise voice. We operate in a democratic environment – voices will be heard if presented in the appropiate forum. Bottom line of such an approach is an understanding that we individuals has an obligation to conserve power for the next generation.

 

Little things like below can help a long way to save lots of energy and who cares about megawatts – we can save gigawatts.

1.    Just the way, we never forget to wash our teeth in morning. Why cannot we make it hygiene to switch off all electrical devices when we leave office and/or go for bed. Why an electric operated clock kept in a room where the person visits once/day needs to powered on all the time. Why a mosquito repellent is still on when Sun is out.

2.    At office[i]s, I have seen almost all the docking stations powered on – whole of night. It is absolutely ridiculous. It takes less than 30 seconds to switch in on – next day. In a sufficiently lighted office environment – there is no need for passage lights which ideally should be remote operated and shut off.

3.    Mixer grinders, coffee machine, toaster, portable electronic devices are all left powered on for convinience. Just that we want to save ourself for few seconds next time we need them again we remain unaware of what unfavour we are doing. If a VCR or a DVD is left powered on with the power LED ON, it is still burning those tiny microwatts even though the DVD itself is not playing.

4.    One major problem is people leaving their cell and computers on charge beyond the time (much beyond) once they are fully charged. You are not only destroying the cell – you are not doing any favours to the conservation philosphy.

5.    80% of power wastage in kitchen is attributable to fact that one is cooking something and suddenly the phone rings. For the next many minutes the person is just lost – untill there is a foul smell. Kitchen and phone is both dangerous and inconvinient. One should always practice the habbit of not operating kitchen/phone together just the way some practice driving/talking.

6.    Hey those folks – listening music! switch on those devices when you really want to, Statistically, it is proven that a person switches on music and is engaged for the first few minutes only- then he is gone. He will not be able to tell what just played. He would not be knowing whether some electrically powered device is playing in first place.

7.    Effective work. How many of us know that using an electrical device effectively can save a lot of electricity. Savings can be detrimental here. Those using electrical cooking methods – prepare all activties first before you switch on the oven. Why to burn for 2-4 minutes just to dry the water therein – dry it alternatively. Effective using the press for doing clothes is also encouraged. Do not just dump too much water on the cloth that it takes 5 minutes to just dry it up.

8.    At office, take care of the xerox machine, the fax machine and the printer as your own. As long as you treat them as personal you cannot do justice to their requirement. Remember how well you take care of your home printer/fax machine. Be kind to them at office. Power off – when you are messing with it and shoot a print only when it is in-despensable. On second thought 8 out of 10 printouts will not be desirable. No manages would like to see a 100 page presentation as long as you are able to tell him in 4 minutes the synopsis of what there is in the presentation. If you are not able to tell what is there in the presentation in 4 minutes (at max) forget about your printouts – they are anyway useless. Studying for certification/examination – best way is to make notes is the notepad. On a very long thinking – next time you want to boot the machine and send an e-greeting, think about sending a post card through the postman. No matter how fast we have grown technologically, the joy of receiving a letter from a loved one remains unparalleled- may be equivalent only to a kid watching a moving train

9.    Next time when we are organizing a cultural/social event- lets do it with sufficient lighting and not extraordinary lighting. Isn’t a dull dinner light just about ideal.Lets keep the decibel levels low – no one likes very loud music anyway (it hurts your eardrum). Diwali is also a festival of “diyas” and “candles:” – it is not for fluroscent halogen lamps all over.

10.  All those AC loving folks – it is much better healthwise to jog for heat and take a dip for cool. Next time you feel cold – take a rachet or a club with your toddler and play, you have no idea how efficient a method this would be. A toddler can make you run so much in such short time – no technology available to mankind would match that.

 

I can go endless writing bullet points regarding ways and means available to us to save power, pain of which I felt sitting in a distribution facility trying to manage loads from various consumers. By saving power at home and work we are doing favour to ourself because extra power saved at home will be power receipt at office and vice versa. Next time you switch off an inactive electrical/electronic device think about the distribution engineer sitting in a distribution center pulling his hairs of how to distribute the load – that distribution person can be a near/dear one. You might as well doing him a favour. Those living in big cities like Mumbai and Delhi who would say where is the power cut?– I do not see the load shedding – you are using somebody’s else’s power which tantamouts to stealing.

 

It’s a Megawatt Challenge – Choice is always ours – we want more of it today and none tommorrow or we want to share it between today and tommorrow.



[i] Prakash Kumar- Lead Consultant, SAP Practice has been with Infosys for over 3 years and has  previously worked for ABB, ALSTOM and Siemens in power generation and distribution assignments in India, USA, Taiwan and Switzerland during 1996-2006. In various capacities he has helped set up 8 Power generation facilities in India (2), USA (3), Taiwan (2) and Switzerland (1) and two transmission and distribution facilities in India (1) and Qatar (1). During this span he has also worked for ALSTOM at its American National Power,  ‘power distribution hub in Massachussets, USA, supporting the distribution of power activities to the power deficient North- Eastern grid of USA.

 

*Just for convinience author has taken a single 100MW generation facilitity and a 100 odd consumers. Practical distribution value chain can have a complex combination of multiple power generation facilities and millions of consumers.

 

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