Overcoming the hurdles posed by the nature to deliver power to the last mile has been made possible due to critical technologies and human efforts at such remote locations, which often go unnoticed.
From the permanently snow-capped Himalayas in the north to the tropics in the south. From the deserts in the west to the world’s largest delta in the east. India’s mere geography poses a plethora of challenges to the ‘24×7 Power For All’ vision. Overcoming all these hurdles to deliver power to the last mile has been made possible due to critical technologies and human efforts at such remote locations, which often go unnoticed.
Winter is coming!
Ladakh, the rooftop of the world, has intermittent power supply that primarily flows from diesel generators and a few micro hydel projects. In his recent visit to Leh Ladakh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for an airport, inaugurated a university and the hydroelectric project in Dah. And to fully utilize these, a transmission link that connects Ladakh to the national grid, to bring reliable power to the around 300,000 inhabitants of the region.
Built at a height of around 3,000-4,000 meters, this 335-km long transmission line has four 220/66 kV Gas Insulated substations built at Drass, Kargil, Khaltsi and Leh. Surrounded by the harshest mountain ranges in the world, with frequent blizzards and wide-ranging temperatures, substation equipment get coated with layers of ice and maintenance and service is perilous.
This challenge is addressed by applying double-break disconnectors that operate as shields, isolating power equipment from the network and ensuring safety and reliability of the substation. The disconnectors are built to perform temperatures between -20 and 40 Degree Celsius and such reliability is key to ensuring 24×7 quality power in all-weather conditions.
Solar power is easy on the environment but harnessing it in utility scale is most effective & most testing in the desert. Power technicians have now executed a project connecting a solar plant in Rajasthan to the national grid – near a village so remote it doesn’t feature on Google Maps.
Here, the national border is closer at 40+km than the nearest local town and temperatures are anywhere between -3?C in winter to a scorching 50?C during summers. With no basic resources (food was a minimum 50 km away) and it sometimes being too cold for labor to hold metal structures despite protective gear, erecting a bread & butter substation became a gargantuan task.
Under such conditions, with sheer perseverance and expertise of working in dire conditions and the essential support of reliable products, engineers have designed, tested and commissioned a substation and digital network management solution in six months.
The thickets of Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove, poses its own challenges of accessibility and connectivity. Apart from the environmental impact of clearing way for electrical lines, the land is marshy and requires extensive civil works – having additional impact on the precariously balanced natural ecosystem. As a starting point, houses in 100 villages dispersed across the region were provided solar PV home lighting kits with charging provisions in these energy dark areas.
Electric light after sunset not only increased the productivity of the locals, helped students finish their studies and healthcare professionals offer more reliable care, but it also deterred tiger attacks – protecting humans and wildlife alike.
What could possibly be difficult in erecting substations in cities, you ask? Space & safety.
Sky rocketing real estate prices in urban India compels technology to downsize while delivering the same performance. To power one of the busiest metro systems in the world, Delhi Metro, through the heart of the city required some engineering and human ingenuity. Engineers built an underground substation using compact GIS technology, close to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the beautiful and very popular presidential gardens. You may have stood right on the top of the substation, without realizing a 66 kV substation is humming away seven meters under your feet.
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About Pitamber Shivnani
Pitamber Shivnani is the President of the Power Grids division at ABB India. He is an alumnus of IIT – Roorkee and a member of the Corporate Management Committee of ABB in India.