Understanding Power Equations: Background for Niddodi Thermal Power Project

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By Philip Mudartha
Pics by John V Tauro
Bellevision Media Network

Mangalore, 15 Aug 2013: As of January 2013, Karnataka state had a power generation installed capacity of 13,596.28 MW which consisted of 7,279.56 MW of state share, 4,720.63 MW of private share and 1,596.09 MW of central share.



The state population is 61 million.  So, the per capita installed capacity is 222W. Is this sufficient?


Let us run some basic calculations:







Cap MW











Let us assume that the plants are available to run and produce power for an average 330 days in a calendar year. This assumption is made based on Indian power generation industry are world class, which they are not.


The maximum power that can be miraculously generated is 222w*24hr/day*330 days/year/1000w.hr/365 days/year is 4.8 units per day per person.


Miraculously, I said because no process of power generation is 100% efficient. No plant gives 100% capacity utilization. No plant can run continuously round the clock for 330 days without breakdown.


Technical issues apart, there are resource crunches like shortage of inputs like coal and cooling water for thermal power plants, water for hydro power plants and sunshine, wind, bio-waste for renewable source power plants.


The table below shows the installed capacity according to types of inputs.








Cap MW













Among them, the nuclear power plants have highest capacity utilization ratio. The best plants in the world have reached 95%. However, world industry average is 84%. Under Indian conditions, let us fix 80%.


The Thermal power plants generally achieve 65% capacity utilization. Under Indian conditions, I will fix it at 50%, largely due to the stock-out situation of imported high grade coal.


The renewables based power plants have much lower capacity utilization at around 25% for obvious reasons.  The hydro plants are doing any better, so I consider a figure of 30%. 


Based on above, the average capacity factor is 38%. Therefore, 222w installed capacity actually produces 1.8 units per day.
















Are you happy with this situation? How much power do you want to use in your household?


To produce one ton of crude steel, about 1000 units of power is required, to convert iron ore to iron and then to crude steel through available best process technology routes. How much crude steel should our state produce? Currently, it produces about 100 kg per person a year, while China produces about six times. How could our manufacturing take off and create jobs without adding capacity? How can manufacturing industries operate without basic input of energy, which is electricity?


I have elsewhere given calculations to show that an acre of agricultural farm produces only Rs15, 000 net annual incomes. How long should we live with such meager agricultural productivity?


Should we build more power plants? If so, where should we build them? If we should not build any, why are we clamoring for development and growth? We should be asking for quality of life of ancient days and status quo (as we lived some fifty years ago).  Do we know what we want?



Comments on this Article
Philip Mudartha, Mumbai Sun, August-25-2013, 12:32
Solution is easy if our leaders show vision and lead from the front, develop a VMV for the nation, explain and get buy-in from all stakeholders. It has to gain the trust of people by enforcing existing laws and required laws to manage environment impacts. The government shall also fair and just compensations for land and other properties the individual citizen surrenders to the public utilities and infrastructure. Then why it i snot happening? Indians are shoddy and their attitude is abysmally mean.
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Sun, August-25-2013, 9:08
Thanks Philip for reminding my basics. Though terrain suits most, like Nandicoor, they promise a lot and pay least attention towards minimising ash flying around, spent cooling water, chemicals, effluents and damage to environment. I do agree there is no easy solution. Havu sayabeku..Kolu Muriyabaradu!!
Philip Mudartha, Mumbai Fri, August-23-2013, 9:10
@Ronald Sabi, With due respect I beg to differ with a part of your comment recommending dry and drought-stricken places as suitable sites on technical grounds. Thermal power plants, coal based or gas fired, require tons of water as feed-stock as well as coolant. The abundant availability of fresh industrial water is a key factor in site selection. If only sea water is available, then desalination plant should be installed as an add-on facility. Since high grade steam coal has to be imported, the site should be as close to a deep port as possible for ships to come in discharge coal on to railroad wagons. If natural gas in way of its forms is used, it also has to be imported by LNG tankers, an evaporation terminal to be set up at the port, and then a high pressure gas pipe has to be laid underground all the way into the power plant. Therefore displacing and affecting people is a reality for which our society has to find a solution. An option is to go back to pre-independence era lifestyles (my mother and father-in-law described with macabre details. In that case 1962 will be repeated sooner. I will start learning Chinese...:D
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Thu, August-22-2013, 9:34
Thought provoking article. Yes, we have alarming shortage of power. Considering last two summers Nandicur plant has not eased situation a bit... may be consumption has increased. I feel they should establish such plants in dry and draught stricken places in Gulbarga, Bidar or Bijapur. South Kanara has fertile land and rain is fairly okay. Or they should find some barren islands for such power plants or nuclear power plants. Transportation of power can be done through underground cables. Technology has advanced and places like Niddodi can be spared. Today’s assurance of JP Hegde must be music to Niddodi people.
Benedict Noronha, Udupi Fri, August-16-2013, 10:34
Very good project report to save niddodi. yes we want power also. Therefore the pressure should be save danger to environment and power project witj not with coal and smoke. AS mr Veerappa moily Minister said let it be CNG/ Gas based one. let there be one Voice. We want power project- CNG based and not coal based. let there be one voice, one cry for the good of all.
Philip Mudartha, Mumbai Fri, August-16-2013, 5:35
I thank the editor for requesting Mr. Tauro to provide pictures of Nidddodi, taken during the visit of PV Mohan. I hope to tour the region during April-May 2014, or around general elections, for personal insight. That will not be my first time in the area.
Philip Mudartha, Mumbai Fri, August-16-2013, 5:31
1. This is a basic intro on the power generation scenario in our state. In next chapter, specific issues will be examined including Niddodi and its farmers. 2.The state buys 15% of its needs from neighbors. Yet, it suffers from chronic power cuts, fluctuating and often very low voltage in the grid. Most electrical devices do not function at all or as they should. 3. Majority of citizens want the scenario to change for better. But, they do not know how things can change for better. They are too patient because they are confused and believe man lives by bread alone. 4. Food is essential but not at any cost or by inefficient process. Transformation will occur and has to, but it is the pace and time of it that is under discussion, especially in our agriculture and land use policies and attitudes. 5. For the time-being, I ask my readers to make a list of electrical and electronic devices in their household including water pumps, write down KW or W of each, hours used per day or month and calculate the units consumed. Ask for hep, if you cannot calculate. 6. If you are a household of 5, and if you consume more than 100 units per month, you have cause to worry soon..
Imtiaz Sanim, Mangalore/ Bangalore Thu, August-15-2013, 11:13
Hi, I appreciate your effort in collecting the fact and figures. Development and Growth is a must but it is equally important to retain our lush Green Land (be it agriculture / forest). We can build any number of power plant but is it possible to bring up a forest/ greenry ? Middle East countries spend Billions and put in effort to change their desert land into Greenery / bring in lake to the city etc. We are lucky to have these as default. The catch lies in choosing the Land for UMPower project. More study should be conducted and a barren land be choose for such projects.
loelo, belle Thu, August-15-2013, 4:15
Nice article Sir !! But I do not agree with you point meager agricultural productivity.Though the net annual income is less , the fact is it is earned through hard work as well as it is feeding to many people like me and you. In the era of urban civilization we need to think about our villages, farmers who are the backbone of our country. Just Imagine the feelings of Niddodi villagers :(
Valerian, Belle Thu, August-15-2013, 1:22
Sir, beautiful and timely article cleared lots of doubt in my mind. thank you very much for timely write up. Keep up the writing.
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