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Friday, March 1, 2024

Harnessing cyclones

Global Warming has changed everything from temperature rise to erratic monsoon and from the danger of sea-level rise to recurrent cyclones, challenges are never-ending for humanity but instead of accepting environmental destabilization as fait accompli and whining over it, the human being is discovering novel ways to effectively deal with it. It is better to convert these challenges not only into opportunities but also into a boon.

A careful observation of the past few years would lead us to the conclusion that torrential cyclones are recurrently besetting the Indian Ocean region and the Indian peninsula particularly. The brouhaha and mayhem after the cyclonic spell is widely reported, however, it is possible to think differently about cyclones. Instead of cursing, we could perceive cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes curative.

A recent bash by cyclone Gulab against the Bharat’s coast which is reportedly transforming into ‘Shahin’ by the time this article is written, has resulted in the loss of life and property and this is not a single phenomenon, Bharat has a long-haul history of cyclones causing immense loss of lives and properties compelling us to put on a thinking cap as to how to embark on efficacious measures to tame the nature at its best fury thus besides the cut and dry solutions such as mitigation and early warning, time demands some innovative solutions to reap the benefits from the catastrophe.

Bharat’s astute perseverance in the development of renewable energy is visible on a global scale. Timely measures adopted to proliferate various sources of renewable energy are commendable however too much focus on few sectors is unwelcoming. Out of the box thinking about the energy embedded in the cyclones and hurricanes is required to be stepped up. 

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), a non-profit American public broadcaster, revealed that the total energy released by an average single hurricane is equivalent to a whopping 200 times the electricity-generating capacity of the whole world. It is therefore, merely tapping an adequate energy from a single hurricane could lead world to have surplus energy andthose countries who have successfully developed a technology to decouple energy through the hurricane would be enabled to export to other nations with energy deficit.

Japan is already experimenting on harnessing energy from hurricanes and typhoons as she is always at their mercy. In 2016, Japan installed a typhoon turbine, a name given to a wind turbine with a capacity to withstand nearby 20-30 typhoons that keep on dashing at the shores of Japan every year.

This turbine is enabled to capture wind energy gushing from typhoons and according to the statement of typhoon turbine manufacturing company ‘Challenegery,’ a single typhoon has the capacity to power Japan for the next 50 years. Now the company is planning to sell its typhoon turbines to the Philippines, a country facing a similar fate as far as cyclonic conditions are concerned.

One research is showing an effect of offshore wind farms on the precipitation of cyclones and hurricanes that means the flooding and the following disaster could be attenuated with the help of wind farms, however, separate research is required to be carried out to gauge the effect of these newly invented typhoon wind turbines which must be better than the regular wind turbines. This is a path-breaking solution which Bharat has to look up to when we too have run in against 117 cyclones from 1970 to 2019 and lost more than 40,000 lives.

Dr.R.K. Dave in his article Cyclones –An Opportunity to Generate Huge Amount of Clean Power Generation in Indian Coastal Belt !! has attempted to attract the government’s attention to “Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT)” technology which according to him required to be installed in coastal areas of Bharat.

He further says the current wind turbines have no capacity to withstand cyclones hence they need to be replaced with VAWT. Installation of VAWT on the buildings is possible hence a game-changer reform would come true if Bharat treads on the suggested path.

According to data published by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Bharat, “The country currently has the fourth highest wind installed capacity in the world with a total installed capacity of 39.25 GW (as of 31st March 2021) and has generated around 60.149 Billion Units during 2020-21” with the entire thrust is on Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh where the quantum of wind is majestic, however, if Bharat really wishes to achieve a target of 60 GW sooner, it is required to strike a deal with Japan for installation of wind turbines having potential to operate in cyclonic conditions to capture immense energy.

Ace engineering and science institutes in Bharat should focus their research on this unexplored facet of cyclones with special incentives to researchers working in this field. Government has to provide necessary financial and functional support for such seminal projects in Bharat. The government could enter into joint collaboration with Japanese company ‘Challenegery’ and explore possibilities of technology transfer with them.

Let us not get transfixed on already explored fields, science is not all about following a beaten path rather only those countries have made strides that have diverted their attention from solutions available on a platter!!!

Scratching above the surface in science would take us nowhere rather it accentuates dependence on foreign countries for innovative solutions. A close observation shows that we import technology from other countries and then tailor it to our requirements instead, we must cultivate a spirit that would encourage indigenous inventive solutions for our problems and that would make us exporting country to other nations facing similar issues.

A success story of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan lies in this endogenic development of science/technology which Bharat should inculcate for our research related to cyclones, however, it is not the responsibility of scientists only, the government has to provide support to create favorable market conditions for the products and unless there are symbiotic relations among government, market and research in science & technology inventions would crack to the naught.


-by Shrijeet Padhke

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