7 Reasons Why Renewable Energy Can Be A Life Saver In Disasters & Conflicts

7 Reasons Why Renewable Energy Can Be A Life Saver In Disasters & Conflicts KSB Ltd Pockets Order for 800 Solar Water Pumping Systems from UP Govt

Several coastal Indian states along the Bay of Bengal have often witnessed repeated cyclone episodes. Such devastating extreme weather events have created massive destruction of the power infrastructures like electric poles and grids in the past. On the other side, most of the eastern Indian states lying close to the Himalayas have been earmarked as ‘prone to landslides and earthquakes’ by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.  At the recent RenewX in Hyderabad, one of the most popular stalls had a start up from Chennai, Turnon that displayed a portable solar based charging solution for gadgets including laptops, demonstrating the high interest in such ‘power anywhere’ solutions. Turnon used a flexible PERC module/sheet for its solution, but many such solutions have been developed elsewhere too. 

Take, for example, the case of Odisha. In 2019, cyclone Fani created havoc in Puri and Bhubaneswar, where grid distribution lines suffered massive damages leading to power outages for around one month.

However, several renewable energy users in such a situation can often use these non-fossil fuel sources to counter the impact of natural disasters or even in conflict zones.

Following are some of the significant reasons why these renewable energy sources are best suited for such situations.

1. Regular, naturally available source

 While in many disasters, there are power outages due to the failure of the grid, transformer, or other operational issues, renewable energy sources have their own virtue. In conventional energy sources, the connection with the primary energy source is often disrupted during disasters. However, as renewable energy sources depend on either sun or wind, which are natural sources, they are readily available every day. In conventional energy sources, the primary energy source often remains distant, and it takes days to recover power lines to connect to those sources. However, in renewable energy sources, the primary source is available to solar panels or wind turbines on their spot itself. 

2. Decentralised sources

 As many of these renewable sources are decentralized, they are often independent of other transmission issues. It benefits even more if the renewable energy is off-grid (not connected to the grid). In off-grid renewable projects, there is no impact of any hurdles of the grid during disasters. In many cases, when the grid in any city area fails and cannot deliver power to its consumers, the off-grid renewable users can use it daily to produce energy and consume it without bothering about the grid or damages done to it the electricity transmission during such disasters. 

3. The flexibility of partial dismantling during disasters 

With the advancement of early warning systems, cyclones, and other such disasters are predicted in advance. The meteorological department often issues such alerts in advance and updates regularly. In such a situation, the smaller renewable energy plants often get the liberty to dismantle their solar rooftops when a cyclone is expected to prevent damage and erect it again when the episode diminishes. Many solar consumers did this in such situations to avoid damage to their panels and later reap the benefits of such systems post-disaster. 

4. Reduce import dependency

Using renewable energy also helps reduce our dependency on importing crucial fossil fuels like oils, natural gas, and coal. These supplies are likely to be cut during conflicts and even disasters. However, renewable energy production is independent of the supply of raw materials. It also becomes independent of the sudden abrupt rise of imported coal, oil, and gases during conflict and other situations. 

5. The only reliable source to run emergency services 

When oil, diesel, and grid electricity often fail to reach segregated or disaster-hit areas, the only reliable energy source for emergency services like hospitals, police stations, and others could be solar energy. Many of these institutions have now increased the installation of these alternative energy systems. For example-Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Karnataka have taken special steps to install solar panels on the rooftops of their hospitals to ensure energy security of these sites. 

6. The terrain and portability issues 

Also due to the tough, hilly and rugged terrain, it is often difficult to take grid connections to such regions like in some of the higher altitudes of Himalayas and Jammu and Kashmir. The threat of avalanches in many such areas also make it tough to use grid connections from security point of view. Many solar companies have now also launched foldable and portable solar panels which the energy users can carry with them while venturing into such areas to cater to their energy needs.

7. Access to basic needs during wars/conflicts  

In many areas during wars and disasters, due to lack of power, the regular supply of water due to failure of pumps leads to chaos especially in urban areas. However, with the availability of solar energy solar pumps are used to withdraw water to cater to the basic needs of the population. Take the case of Lebanon. This region suffered erratic power supply which affected their water needs. It was only with the increased penetration of solar energy that the supply of water was made possible with decentraslied solar panels in such areas. Similarly even the opium farmers of Afghanistan also used solar pumps to irrigate their lands. In war-hit Ukraine, their 3.9 MW of solar park in the Kharkiv region suffered missile attacks but it bounced back within few days to resume energy supply to its war-affected regions.

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