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Thursday, January 05, 2006

LED Lighting and disruptive innovations - 2

The core of modern industrialized civilization is the availability of reliable and affordable electrical power. The core difference between village and urban life is the availability of relatively reliable power to energize the devices that define modern living. For most urban residents in India even a 2 hour power cut is difficult to digest and come summer sales of UPS systems that allow uninterrupted power spurts. The scenario in rural areas is far different and power if available is of poor quality. Further power cuts are frequent and long in duration.

A 21st century India requires universal and affordable electric power to enhance the life of rural folk and allow them to express their potential. There are however serious caveats in realizing this mission. The generation capacity of the Indian Grid has to go up dramatically if power is to be supplied to every village in India. Even if the generation were stepped up it will still be impossible to provide grid infrastructure everywhere and the money required to do this will be in the lakhs of crores year after year.

This century has already seen the rapid industrialization of developing countries led by China, India, Brazil and South Africa. It is a fact that if the combined populations of these and other developing countries aspires for a developed country level of energy use, we will need two more earth’s to supply the required fossil energy resources. The constantly rising prices of petroleum is an indication of this trend and will soon reach such alarming proportions that our current economic structures can be upset. The way forward is obviously provide the functionality at a lower energy consumption to help a larger population enjoy the fruits of technology without damaging the environment or fighting wars over resources.

A two pronged approach using modern technologies can combat these problems and reduce theunservedd areas . The first of these will be to dramatically increase the generation of power from renewable sources that have minimum impact on the environment. While sources like conventional giant hydroelectric projects are renewable, the impact that they have on the environment and human populations living in thesubmergee areas make them controversial and decidedly nonecoo-friendly. The key sources of renewable power in this century will be Solar power (Photo-voltaic, thermal and direct solar), wind (on shore, off shore, micro) , Micro and Mini Hydel and efficient bio mass based power sources. India has the fortune of being located in the best zone for solar generation and has aa potential for thousands of MW of power.

The second key approach will be to innovate and create standards for more efficient electrical devices like lights, fans, refrigerators, industrial equipment etc to better utilize the energy generated. After all a watt saved is a watt earned.

The power generation, transmission and consumption patterns in India are antiquated and a lot of savings can be realized by using better technology equipment in all cases. Some revealing statistics below show the potential for savings.

Lighting consumes about 15 % of the total energy generated in India. In developed countries this number is 7-10 % made possible by the use of more efficient luminaries and control gear. This 5-8% savings will amount to a nett savings of about 5603 MW ( India’s current generation is about 112058 MW according to Central Electricity authority 2004) per annum. This is a huge amount of power by any standards and will allow the existing generation to take care of a lot more demand. The actual savings by individual offices and homes can be much more as lighting consumes almost 30-50 % in such settings.
There are similar examples is all fields where electric energy is consumed.

The lighting sector is a all pervasive presence in modern human habitations and as demonstrated above has a huge potential for energy savings and one of the most important technologies that is emerging is the use of high efficiency, high brightness LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lamps for luminaries. LEDÂ’s are electronic devices and are currently advanced enough to provide usable light in all visible colours of the spectrum at very low wattages. Internationally, experts have endorsed the use if LED lighting as the future of electric lighting. An additional benefit of LED lighting is that it is very solar and wind energy friendly as it can operate off the generated low voltage DC directly without any conversions. This ability and the resultant solutions have the capability of revolutionizing both urban grid driven lighting and providing innovative solutions for autonomous and distributed rural lighting.

The efficiencies of LED’s are a factor higher than incandescents and better than most fluorescents. This is however only the beginning as Led technology is advancing rapidly and an average increase of 20% in light output is being achieved annually. As with all other electronics, the cost of the items is falling annually with volumes rising. LEDÂ’s present us with a unique opportunity to make sure that every home in India is lit and the overall productivity of the country is raised while consuming less power. This trend has already begun in the west where LED based lighting is entering more and more areas of lighting. A further advantage of LEDÂ’s is that they dont contain any Mercury or Lead and are relatively benign environmentally. Mercury and Lead pollution are major issues with conventional fluorescents and are inadequately addressed in countries like India where disposal is not scientific. In fact most people just throw it out with the garbage and cause widespread mercury pollution.
Like all other electronic components LED’s are physically rugged, have a long life and do not fail by fusing like conventional lamps. An average LED has a rated lifespan of about 100,000 hours of usage and this practically means that the luminary will last between 8 & 11 years before it needs to be replaced. Overall the long duty cycle and low power consumption of LED’s make them a very attractive solution for many lighting applications.

To be continued...

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