Mankind is drawing energy from various sources. J&K, though belatedly, is progressing on the thermal and geothermal energy fronts. A Kashmir Life report
Solar and wind energy apart (falling under different ministries), PDC has fast forwarded its plan to tap geo-thermal energy in Ladakh’s Puga valley. After continuous monitoring and investigations since 1973 involving different agencies like GSI, CEA, NGRI and NHPC, experts have identified geothermal reservoirs in Puga valley of Ladakh, enough for producing power. There are, however, different estimations from different agencies over the power that the most “well understood” geothermal field in India can produce. Adjacent to the famous Salt Lake Valley of Rupshu inhibited by Chang Pa tribe beyond Tanglang La and Polokonka passes, the Puga valley draws hundreds of people suffering from rheumatism and skin diseases for hot water baths. It has huge borax and sulphur deposits but inaccessibility and short working seasons prevent any commercial exploitation.
“The project started in 1973 and continued till 1977,”Ahsan Absar, former director of the Geological Survey of India, now working for an alternative energy company, said. “It required deep drilling but we could barely drill upto 100 meters because we lacked machines.” Of the 34 wells they drilled, 17 discharged water and the temperature was between 120 and 130 degrees Celsius.
The exploration resumed in 1985 with Mineral Exploration Corporation of India leading flocks to Puga. After some drilling, they also fled away.
There are certain studies suggesting the holes drilled up to 300 meters have temperature of around 289 degrees celsius. But for commercial exploitation it would need drilling up to one kilometer is required. Off late IIT Bombay was also carrying out certain studies. On basis of the multi-disciplinary data PDC is working on harnessing the energy.
On the other side of the border, China has already set up one geothermal power station Yang Baijang, not far away from the Puga valley.
The only major problem in Puga is that while the energy would come very cheap, its transmission – taking the energy as far as 175 Kms – would cost much more.
Finally the PDC sought bids for implementing of a 5 MW research and development cum technology demonstration project (TDP) cum resource assessment multipurpose initiative on BOOT basis. At least one reputed company with some expertise in renewable energy is keen to invest in the project. After consultations with expert agencies, the PDC board has finally evolved a set of basic procedures that would be followed in setting up the TDP at Puga. The bidder will offer per MW cost that includes power evacuation to Chumathang, the nearest habitation of Puga almost 35 kms away, besides Sumdo, the nearest village with around 80 households. The developer will have to lay appropriate voltage level transmission line. Puga, if tapped would become the biggest geo-thermal energy site in India.
On the thermal energy front, J&K has the twin units of gas turbines in Pampore. With an installed capacity of 175 MW, the turbines were commissioned in 1989 and 1994 in two phases at a total investment of Rs 224.59 crore. Owing to the massive operational costs, the turbines were closed in 1998 and are put to use only in case of emergencies. It is the most expensive energy as each unit costs between Rs 16 and Rs 20. But the gas turbines were not J&K’s first foray into thermal energy. On May 23, 1963, the foundation stone of 22.5 MW Kalakote Thermal Plant was laid. First unit of 7.5 MW of the project was commissioned on trial basis on November 1, 1968.
The plant ceased to function in 1987 and the cabinet in 1989 decided to close it down for non-availability of requisite quality and quantity of coal. The coal deposits at Kalakote include fields in Kura, Berjua, Sair and Bodogh belt, are estimated to be around 1.44 lakh tons. These coal deposits fed the plant. J&K Minerals has been extracting coal since 1960. But thickness of the coal seams range from 0.15 meters to 0.75 meters in upper coal and between 0.50 meter to 1.5 meter in lower coal with fifty percent ash content. The deposits are neither uniform nor of the required quality in terms of ash content and seam thickness. Policy makers believe it is not feasible to revive the plant by re-linking it with the existing mines. Kashmir has lignite deposits at Nichahama in Handwara but owing to 50% ash content it was never considered to be useful for setting up a thermal power plant.
However, policy makers are considering setting up of a thermal power plant at Gandial village in Kathua. Experts from NTPC visited the area but most of the land falls in flood prone area which might influence the decision to host a plant at the site. The other option is to get coal blocks in the plains and set up a project there.