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I was at Delhi last week two days. I spent two days last week at the TERI University in Delhi last week, attending an interesting conclave on renewable energy, part of an India-US research partnership. The event was organized by Marg Group ( ), and had as its partners Great Lakes Institute of Management ( ) and the Michigan State Univ, East Lansing ( ). (Here’s a nice writeup about the event – ).

The goal of the symposium was to generate interest in the research space of renewable energy domain in India.  Needless to say, most of what we are doing in renewable energy are what we had done in most other engineering disciplines – we had been mere followers. To that extent, it was interesting that this symposium tried to at least understand how we can start innovating in this vital field as well.

The CEO Roundtable

I had the opportunity to be part of a panel (The CEO Roundtable) of distinguished folks from around the country – chairman of Marg, CEO of IOCL-CREDA, Director of Nandan Biomatrix, among others. The panel discussion focused on what needed to be done by the Energy Innovation Hub that was being set up by Marg. The panel discussion was moderated by Dr.Baldev Raj, Director, Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Center.

I spoke about the need for including two important aspects in the innovation hub – need for sustainable fossil fuels and rigor in policy implementation. Other points raised in the discussion revolved around the need for Indians to invest more on R&D and creating unique intellectual property assets, the need for government to…

My point was, a hub that just focused on scientific innovation is not enough, in the case of renewable energy. Unless such research were quickly brought to the marketplace and can make a difference, for countries such as India, such research might not be the most needed thing of the hour. But in order for these research efforts to actually get commercialized and make a difference, two things need to happen:

1.       A realization that renewable energy is not a silver bullet for the foreseeable future

2.       We Indians plan phenomenally well, and implement abysmally badly.

A number of folks from the audience met me after the panel discussion and said that these were two important points to be debated on and concerned about.

A few other notable points from the panelists and the audience:

1.       We had the director of IIT Kanpur in the audience Sanjay Dhande. He mentioned a few interesting things that IITK was doing in renewable energy – setting up a solar energy conclave, a research group is working on OLEDs and a group is working in the area of power electronics in efforts to convert low grade energy to high grade energy.

2.       One member in the audience observed that the only two things India has in abundance are sunlight and thorium – interesting thought that. (India has about 25% of the world’s thorium reserves, according to Wikipedia)

3.       It was also interesting and surprising to know that in some countries, industrial consumers paid less for their electricity than domestic consumers (examples of S Korea and Thailand were provided in this context)

4.       A person from an infrastructure consulting firm also had the idea that we should perhaps have an R&D cess on all products sold in India so that we have enough and more funds to finance R&D. Hmmm…

5.       One member in the audience, from Feedback Ventures, commented that lack of authentic data was a serious problem hampering funding of renewable energy ventures in India as lack of these critical data (especially for forecasts of performance) hindered the ability of financiers to build in risk mitigation models…

6.       Dr Baldev Raj, the moderator for the panel, said in his summary that what India needs is a catalyst that can take excellent ideas (both concepts and inventions) from unsung heroes to reality. This is a view that we had held at EAI for a long time, and in fact this was the motivation for us to start the Inventor Zone on the site.

7.       Another statement made by someone in the audience was “China does everything to make things affordable for the whole world, while India does everything to make things affordable for its own countrymen”. Not sure if I will agree with it in entirety – at least this is not the case for the Indian software and BPO industries.

8.       An amusing and the same time thought-provoking perspective was “Even a reasonably large number divided by 1.2 billion is close to zero, and even a very small number multiplied by 1.2 billion results in something significant”. How true!

The symposium had a number of speakers providing presentations on the latest in biofuels and wind energy. I was not present for most of the symposium duration, and hence am not able to provide any summary or content from there. I am however providing the list of topics presented and the experts who presented these.

Details of the Biofuels and Wind Symposium

Day 1 – Bio-based Fuels

Session 1

Welcome address by Dr Vibha Dhawan, Executive Dir, Advanced Biotechnology Development, TERI

Keynote speech – Satish Udpa – Dean of College of Engg, Michigan State Univ.

Algal biofuel prospects and challenges – Dr Dinabandu Sahoo – Dept of Biotechnology, Delhi Univ.

Session 2

Session chaired by Prof Lawrence Drzal , MSU

Making Useful Comparisons between Petroleum Alternatives – Prof Bruce Dale – Biomass Conversion Research Lab, MSU

Ligno-cellulosic Ethanol – Status and Scope for India – Prof VVN Kishore, HOD, Dept of Energy and Environment, TERI Univ

Application of Plant and Agricultural Sciences to Biofuel Development – Prof Doug Buhler, Associate Dean for Research for College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, MSU

Session 3

Session chaired by Prof VVN Kishore

Advances in Cellulosic Biofuel Production – Prof Venkatesh Balan, College of Engg, MSU

Nandan Biomatric Limited’s Integrated Biofuel Technologies – Abhilash Pulzal, Director, Nandan Biomatrix

Advanced Biofuels and Biohemicals – Processes, Products and Performance – Professor Dennis Miller, Chemical Engg and Material Science, MSU

Session 4

Chaired by Oscar Braganza, MARG Ltd

DBT Initiatives in India – Dr Renu Swaroop, Advisor Ministry of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology

Small scale clean combustion of solids – Biomass and Coal – Prof HS Mukunda – Department of Aerospace Engg., Combustion, Gasification and Propulsion Lab, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

Cellulosic Ethanol Program at Praj – Dr Srinivasan Rajagopalan, PRAJ-Matrix Innovation Center

Roadblocks for Biodiesel Industry – Dr RBN Prasad, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology

Concluding remarks by Prof Leo Kempel – Associate Dean of College of Engg., MSU

Day 2 – Advanced Wind Energy Technology

Session 1

Bio-based Structural Composite Materials – a green alternative to petroleum-based materials – Prof Lawrence Drzal – Composite Vehicle Research Center – MSU

Session 2

Chaired by Prof Doug Buhler, MSU

Aerodynamic Analysis of Wind Turbines – Prof Farhad Jaberi, Computational Fluid Dynamics Lab, MSU

Highly Efficient Vertical Axis Wind Turbines for Low-Medium Wind Speed – Prof Farhang Pourbograt, Mechanical Engineering, MSU

Session 3

Chaired by Prof Jami Hossain, WinDForce Management Services Pvt Ltd

Advanced Energy Storage Materials – Multifunctional Nano-materials for Nanocomposites, Energy and Thermal Management Applications – Prof Lawrence Drzal, Composite Vehicle Research Center, MSU

Wind Turbine Design and Innovation – Dr Anil Kane, President, WWEA

Session 4

Chaired by Oscar Braganza, MARG Ltd

Engineering Challenges in Offshore Wind Turbine – Dr Y V Satish Kumar, Head Offshore Engineering, Infotech

The concluding remarks were made by Prof Satish Udpa, Dean of College of Engg, MSU.


Overall, it was quite a useful, even if vastly different, two days I spent at the TERI university at Delhi. I must thank the organizers Marg for taking the trouble to invite me and provide me the hospitality while there.