Over 70 hot springs identified in Uttarakhand and HP for power generation

Hindustan Times, Dehradun | BySuparna Roy | Edited by Abhinav Sahay
Sep 27, 2020 04:51 PM IST

Several of these hot springs have the potential of producing electricity at a reduced production cost, say experts.

Over 70 hot springs in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh with potential to generate electricity, have been identified by the scientists of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) Dehradun, said the institute.

View of Shaldhar geothermal spring in Garhwal Himalayas(Credit: Wadia Institute/HT Photo)
View of Shaldhar geothermal spring in Garhwal Himalayas(Credit: Wadia Institute/HT Photo)

Kalachand Sain, director WIHG said they have identified around 40 hot springs in Uttarakhand and 35 in Himachal Pradesh, where thermal energy from the springs can be used to generate electricity.

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Sain said of the 40 hot springs in Uttarakhand, around 50% have electricity generation capabilities and further studies are being conducted on the rest of the hot springs. Similar is the status of power generation potential of hot springs identified in Himachal Pradesh.

There are around 600 geothermal springs with varying temperature and chemical conditions in the Himalayas, according to the department of science and technology (DST).

For many, it is a bit difficult to understand the existence of hot springs amid the snowy chilling conditions of the Himalayas.

Anil Gautam, head of environmental quality monitoring group at People’s Science Institute said that hot springs are formed in the Himalayan region when water comes into contact with an underground geo-thermal point, gets heated up and comes out through a thermal vent, which is then called a hot spring.

“The more and more we go deep inside the Earth, temperature keeps increasing due to different types of thermal activities already taking place under the surface of the Earth. When a water source passes nearby these zones (where thermal activities are taking place) it carries the heat along with it and releases through thermal vents as hot springs,” said Gautam.

The WIHG director said this is first of its kind exercise to explore the power generating capacity of hot springs at such a scale here; which will also help in understanding practical challenges of plugging the release of carbon dioxide from these hot springs by condensing it back into the water.

WIHG’s study of gas emissions from Himalayan geothermal springs has shown that they discharge a significant quantum of Carbon dioxide (CO2) rich water.

Sameer Tiwari and Santosh Rai, senior scientists at WIHG working on this project, said they have selected one hot spring near Tapovan, Joshimath in Chamoli district to explore power generation in partnership with a Uttarakhand based private company named Jaydevm energy private limited.

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“Geo-thermal points in the Himalayan region are scattered along the geological fault line of Main Central Thrust (the geological fault line where the Indian plate has pushed the Eurasian plate along the Himalaya), and hot springs are found along this fault line. Studying the geo-thermal points, we are finding out the reservoir energy estimate of the springs. While studying these points, we found that geo-thermal spring in Tapovan is capable of producing up to five megawatts of energy which is reserved there and can be converted to electricity. This geo-thermal energy can be used for producing electricity for the next 20 years,” said Tiwari.

These scientists are now planning to build an infrastructure at the hot spring in Chamoli like a tube-well or a bore-hole where the hot water will be released and mixed with another substance with a lesser boiling point, to produce more steam to push the turbine for producing electricity.

Tiwari added that this method will reduce CO2 emissions.

“There will be almost zero carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere as once the vapour is used for electricity generation, it will be condensed and transferred back into the earth, maintaining the water level and stopping carbon emission.”

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The senior scientist further added that for using geothermal energy the cost of setting up the infrastructure is around four times higher than the thermal power plants, but once set up, the cost of production is four to five times lesser.

Manoj Kohli, director of Jaydevm Energy Private Limited said that with the technical support of WIHG, they are planning to set up the geothermal electricity generation plant by the end of this year in Chamoli.

“We will start working on setting up the plant after a meeting with the chief minister, for which talks are underway. The project will cost around 135 crores for the generation of five megawatts electricity. For this project, we will be making two structures similar to bore-well, for production and another well for transferring that water back into the earth,” said Kohli.

The turbines will be connected to a generator for electricity production. One unit of electricity produced through this method is likely to cost around 4-5.5 and the rate for selling this electricity will be discussed with the state government”, he said.

What is a hot spring and where it gets heat from?

A generally accepted definition of a hot spring says the temperature of water coming out of a natural source should be over 36.7 degrees Celsius. When a water channel of spring gets into touch with a heat source underground, it emerges as a hot spring.

According to experts, there are various sources of this heat like the decay of naturally radioactive elements underground, shallow intrusions of magma (molten rock) and tectonic activities.

Also, the temperature of rocks within the earth increases with depth and if water percolates deep enough, it is heated.

Water of thermal springs can hold more dissolved solids than cold water due to which such springs have high mineral content.

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