We took some well-earned time off today and went for an early morning hike in the jungle. On the way we see a crocodile lazing on the bank – good job we decided not to go for a swim last night! Despite the promise of tigers, bears and the legendary one-horned rhinocerous, we see only glimpses of deer. In fact, the most interesting animal we see is a leech, which sucked on the belly of our French companion before trying to go for my leg!
When we get back to Sauraha, we catch up on emails and back up the footage from the last few days whilst watching the elephant keepers bathe their elephants in the river outside our hotel. At dusk we pop out for a quick stroll and just 100m away from our hotel in the other direction is Nepal’s famous one-horned rhinocerous sitting in the river with just his horn and ears poking out. He’s having a whale of a time blowing bubbles in the water, not at all worried by the crowd of tele-photo wielding tourists (myself included) that have gathered around him on the river bank.
The next day we set off early for Dhaubadi, where Practical Action have recently installed 2x5kW wind tubines with a 10kW PV array. Although it should have taken us only a few hours, we didn’t arrive until early afternoon as we managed to get lost again! The road was also a lot rougher that we expected and was a real challenge for our jeep. It was the end of the monsoon season, so significant portions of the road had slipped down the hill, leaving gaping holes into oblivion. At one of these holes we stopped to let another jeep from the other direction pass. Less than 50m further along the road was a large rock sitting in the middle of the path. It was too high for either our jeep or theirs to drive over and it was right in the middle so you couldn’t drive around. I guess it was our lucky day, as if we’d arrived 15 seconds earlier, it would have smashed right into our jeep!
Half way up to Dhaubadi we unexpectedly passed through a village with many solar panels donated by the Indian government. They even had solar powered street lights! Around 3pm we made it to Dhaubadi and once again, the guy we had arranged to meet was not here. Fortunately, one of the operators of the system was, so we interviewed him instead. He was one of two operators, who worked shifts at the power house, which was located on a windy ridge above the village. Here, Practical Action had 2 larger wind turbines from China and had wisely obliged the supplier to send and engineer to live in the community and train the operators over the course of 2 years. The wind turbines were complemented by a similar sized PV array and so far the project had been a great success. The operator seemed very knowledgeable about the system and reported that the only problems had been tripping of the inverter due to the use of incandescent bulbs.
In mountainous terrain, such the Himalayas, it seems to make far more sense to select the point where the mountains amplify the wind resource most and operate a centralised mini-grid from there. Projects such as El Alumbre in Peru where each house has been given its own wind turbine simply don’t make sense in complex terrain as the wind resource is so variable. Most people don’t live at the top of ridges and so domestic scale wind turbines simply won’t work for them.
As we travel back down through the solar village, I realise that PV is a different matter entirely. The solar resource is much more evenly distributed and the majority of houses have access to somewhere with enough solar irradiation to generate a useful amount of power.