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IOC taps solar power to deliver LPG on top of the world
State-run Indian Oil Corporation is harnessing solar power to make cooking gas refills available to homesteads and security establishments dotting the cold desert of Ladakh – also known as ‘roof of the world’ – in J&K as India’s largest oil refiner and fuel retailer moves to reduce its carbon footprint.
The company has switched its LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) bottling plant at Leh, the headquarters of the country’s largest district by area, from diesel generating. A set to an on-site 100 kw (kilo watt) solar power plant built at cost of over Rs One crore.
Essentially a frontier town situated at an elevation of 11,500 feet, Leh has turned into a major tourist attraction during the summer but is not connected to the national power grid. State-run utility PowerGrid has established a transmission line for wheeling power from a 45 MW hydel plant at Alchi, about 75 Kms from Leh, but supply remains patchy.
Since the plant needs uninterrupted power all through the year, IOC has been running the plant on generators, burning 45,000 litres of diesel annually. Solar power will help avoid emission and help in air quality management.
The bottling plant is the energy lifeline for lakhs of soldiers and civil population, especially in the long, harsh winter when the two road links remain blocked and temperature often drops to minus 30 degrees centigrade.
During such trying times, IOC keeps home fires burning by supplying refills, estimated at more than 2.5 lakh domestic cylinders of 14.2 Kg. In addition, 2,215 small cylinders of 5 Kg and over 8,000 refills of 19 Kg to commercial establishments are also supplied. The plant gets its annual LPG stock in tanker-trucks in the short summer when the roads are open.
The construction of the solar power plant was hampered by weather when an avalanche blocked a truck carrying vital parts at Zoji La, the gateway to Ladakh from Srinagar in December last year and remained stuck through the icy winter. The parts were moved once the road opened this year and the plant was built in 45 days.
This is the latest in a series of steps IndianOil has initiated for greening its business. The company has set a target of running 10,000 retail outlets on solar power.
In June 2015, IOC commissioned the world's highest solar-powered retail outlet -- Lotus Xangpo memorial filling station -- in Leh. The company has installed a solar power generation system at the petrol pump to replace polluting diesel generator. Solar power also enables the retail outlet to save about Rs 30,000 per month in running expense. The investment in the solar power system would be recovered in about 18 months.
IOC already has two other solar-powered retail outlets operating at Choglamsar and the Leh-Manali road in Ladakh region. But both are at a slightly lower altitude than Leh. These outlets operate under extreme weather conditions but solar systems function smoothly as the region gets bright sunlight due to dry weather conditions for the most part of the year.