Can India’s only active volcano be a source of energy for the future?

0


Barren Island volcano erupted in March 1995. Photo: NASA


  • Barren Island volcano was once considered extinct, but then erupted in 1991 and became the only active volcano in South Asia.
  • The island’s geothermal field generates a large amount of steam through fumaroles and is dotted with hot springs.
  • Both hot springs and steam have desirable geothermal properties that could be used to generate electricity, for space heating, and for household purposes.

Barren Island volcano was once considered extinct, but then erupted in 1991 and became the only active volcano in South Asia.

Today, Barren Island is a popular tourist spot. The surrounding warm waters provide a rich scuba diving experience, allowing divers to visit ancient lava formations and spectacular coral reefs. But as a major geothermal province in India, the island has the potential to be much bigger.

Lava flowing from volcanic eruptions on the island has created a delta-like area on its western shore. A 2009 study found that the seawater surrounding this structure had a temperature of 60-70 ° C. This figure reflects the huge geothermal potential of the island and we could use it to power households and the Indian industry.

The island’s geothermal field generates a large amount of steam through fumaroles – openings on the surface that emit volcanic gases; as such, the island is dotted with hot springs. These two entities, hot springs and steam, have desirable geothermal properties that could be used to generate electricity, for space heating and for household purposes, among others.

It is known that fumarolic landfills have temperatures of 100 to 500 ° C and could serve as a clean energy source. In Iceland, for example, drilling activities in the Reykjanes Peninsula volcano released hot vapors, which were used to drive electric turbines. In fact, almost 90% of homes in Iceland are currently heated with geothermal energy.

Heat from the Barren Island volcano, carried by fluids rising to the surface above, could be similarly used in India.

Electricity from volcanoes

The Indian government recently set a goal of making India an “energy independent” country by 2047. Electricity produced by volcanoes could help on this front in five ways.

  1. Clean and sustainable electricity – Many areas of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain are underdeveloped. Geothermal energy from the Barren Island volcano could help provide clean electricity to these areas for a long time, virtually forever.
  2. Profitable – The installation of geothermal power stations is an expensive affair, but the operating and maintenance costs are much lower. In the long run, their actual costs are significantly lower than those of other more “traditional” power plants. Geothermal energy is also a natural source of heat, so additional fuel costs can be eliminated as well.
  3. Weather independentEnergy production from geothermal sources does not fluctuate as much as that from other renewable sources such as wind and solar. So, in addition to being sustainable and cost effective, the heat from the Barren Island volcano will also be reliable.
  4. Local employment – Geothermal power plants require a large workforce and the jobs thus created will be beneficial both economically and environmentally.
  5. Profitable investment – Private sector participation in the Barren Island project could enable a public-private partnership model such as Tata Power’s Mundra plant in Gujarat or Maithon plant in Jharkhand, and take advantage of investors’ interest in energy renewable.

Solar power currently dominates the field of renewable energy in India, and geothermal energy remains largely unexplored, including Barren Island itself. Researchers and surveyors must therefore explore the island, and other similar areas, in all haste, with a view to exploiting its geothermal potential.

Recently, the government-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation announced its intention to implement the first “Geothermal Field Development Project” in Ladakh. The successful implementation of this project could pave the way for more geothermal energy projects at other sites in the future, including Barren Island.

Prathana Sen is a research intern at the Observer Research Foundation, which studies how energy poverty affects women in urban slums.


Share.

About Author

Leave A Reply