Home Electrical Power Supply
Posted on March 27th, 2011
Vajiragnana Warnakulasuriya Melbourne
Minister of Power & Energy
Home Electrical Power Supply
These days there have been several write ups on the possible installation of future nuclear energy plants to supplement the electrical power requirements in the country. While that is carefully investigated I thought to present few suggestions to consider with regards to the immediate demands.
I have observed villagers calling for domestic power supplies due to the hardships encountered by their children who are endeavoring to study in the evenings. Strangely enough when we were growing up our parents did not demand from the Governments to supply electric power to help their children to study at night. We also know that some of the very successful scholars of yester year did their studies under the public lamp posts. The kerosene lamps and Petromax lamps were the common source of lighting in most of the houses. Petromax lanterns run on a variety of fuels, kerosene, alcohol-based fuels, mineral spirits, citronella oil, gasoline, diesel oil, & almost every flammable fuel available on the market. Incidentally these days you can get the safe kerosene bottle lamp invented in Sri Lanka, by Dr Wijaya Godakumbura, a surgeon who is more involved in “ƒ”¹…”prevention of injuries’ than in the practice of surgery. I am not against provision of electricity to all homes throughout the country, but how to approach it sensibly is the question.
In early fifties to say late seventies electricity was available mostly in major cities and urban areas. Maybe I am outdated; Sri Lanka has changed so much since, hence asking for electrical lighting may not be an unjustified request, when you take into account the fact that most of the villagers today have a home phone or a mobile, and they may also have modern day electrical gadgets that can only be useful if AC electricity is available. Hence if electricity has become an essential commodity, irrespective of the locality and the status of the people, then the Government must, make available this commodity to the masses with little discomfort.
At present we have numerous options of getting artificial lighting, some (1) with safety and (2) with extreme danger.
(1). There are safe ways to produce renewable energy with wind and solar power, wave and ocean-thermal energy, geo thermal, hydro.
(2) Then are a source of energy generators that pollute the environment, coal, gas and oil.
(3). Nuclear power involves extreme danger though it is environmentally safest.
Thorium as nuclear fuel is the cleanest out of Uranium & Plutonium that does not emit dangerous radiation, however any nuclear plant involves very heavy installation costs.
These methods have their unique service difficulties, and the dangers involved are numerous. I believe that, though nuclear energy is best suited because of cleaner environmental considerations, it poses a huge risk of radiation. The most common danger is due to irresponsible work attitudes of the work force, and the rest will be the unforeseen and unexpected calamities as well as risks due to natural disasters.
These nuclear power generators are normally manned by highly qualified nuclear physicists (though termed technicians), they know the huge risks these generators pose to the general public even though they are built with all possible safety features and the sites are far away from the community, closer to the sea or a river in case of emergencies.
In Sri Lanka we are yet to have a dedicated, honest, diligent work force to man an establishment like that. In Japan, over the past weeks we observed how the engineers attempting to stop the burning of the radio active elements were sacrificing their own lives for the sake of the others. Those people are as good as dead being cooked well and truly by the radiation. Do we have such brave and committed workers?
Honesty, dedication and Patriotism is acutely lacking in Sri Lankan daily life. These are qualities that need to be taught in schools. We have not seen nor heard of looting in the recent Japanese disaster. One has to study, where and how in their education curriculum these features are introduced to the children so that they become responsible, patriotic citizens!
Our learned University lecturers are seen protesting about their grievances similar to the lower level of the work force. Surely they could engage in amicable dialogue rather than picketing on the streets. I live in Australia, though the lecturers here too are paid relatively lower salaries, they don’t become a nuisance to the public! Teaching and Health are the only two areas where only spending is involved, they do not generate revenue directly except for producing learned and healthy people who could be an asset in a different way to the country.
In the cities and in urban areas, with proper planning, transmission lines can be laid avoiding danger to the public. However, similar action in the villages will be very difficult due to two reasons, (1) the electrical lines have to be drawn through the forest, and jungle which maybe subjected to breakdowns from fallen trees, (2) the houses may not be concentrated in a particular area but scattered all over. Then there’s the likely-hood of people getting electrocuted due to lack of knowledge regarding the danger posed by the fallen electrical lines. To eliminate these hazards, the transmission lines must be installed after clearing all the trees on the way, even if you prepare the main line like that, supplying to individual houses into (hamlets) will be through the forest, which still poses danger to the public. (3) It is also possible to lay the power lines to the houses underground (depends on the coarseness of the terrain). The whole exercise involves destroying the greenery.
If the immediate requirement is for those people in the villages surrounded by thick foliage is to help the children to do their studies, the best option would be Solar power. As Solar power is DC, the bulbs can be a collection of LED’s. Each bulb can be 1Watt energy, three such LED’s will be ideal for room lighting. These LED’s draw very little current 100 ~ 300mAmps, but gives a good glow. This source cannot use for any AC operating devices.
However if and when a transmission line is provided safely to these houses, these solar supply can be converted to AC using an “invertor” and connecting to the grid.
It will be good, if in the Cities and in the urban areas all houses are encouraged to install solar electricity which can be connected to the mains grid after converting DC to AC with use of an “invertor”. This would also reduce the load on the main lines which could easily service the other industrial utilities. It will be good if a government subsidy for the installation of Solar power is offered as an incentive to go green!
Unlike the West or even in some East Asian countries Sri Lanka does not have planned cities or urban areas. Even in the cities the infrastructure facilities are non-existent. The cities built in the past did not cater to the present day population and the machinery. The British, who built the infrastructure last, saw that it’s quite adequate for the population then and the people enjoyed facilities provided comfortably. When you look at the transmission lines in the cities to day, one cannot imagine how services can be rearranged in a better way, providing safety and keeping the esthetic consideration of the environment. It can be done, but it will be a daunting task for a highly congested country like Sri Lanka!
We did not have proper town planning schemes, though there were highly qualified Town planners. The system was ineffective either because those who held high credentials were really not practically oriented or they were interfered with by the politicians. This resulted in mushroom buildings coming up in the cities and in the urban areas. Under these conditions one would not be amazed if the electrical wirings to these structures are a potential killer.
I sincerely hope, that the intention to provide safe and reasonable lighting to all can be achieved gradually with the engagement of the local intelligentsia competent in the relevant fields as discussed here.