Written by Mr. Ranbir Saran Das, Green Growth Councilor and Founder and Managing Director of Fairwood Group of Companies
Urban Mobility is one of the major issues facing the world today, especially in the rapidly growing cities in the developing world. Traffic problems, air pollution, noise pollution, inefficient systems are just a few of the problems which are today plaguing transportation. Most transportation systems in existence today are financially unviable and therefore government funded, and they suffer from significant quality and management issues.
Fairwood believes that green Initiatives are not just about Corporate and Social Responsibility activities, but are a fundamentally sound investment. We believe that green initiatives should be the focus of economic activities of any company which is serious about the environment – and this is also the focus of Fairwood.
The legacy and baggage of mature urban transportation systems in the developed world (mainly focused around the car), has institutionalized significant vested interests, sometimes stifling the development of new and cleaner technologies. Although some advancement has occurred over the years, they have been in incremental stages, and still have the foundation in existing systems. They still use a lot of energy and pollute a lot, and are not even designed to transport people in mass quantities in cities. The problems are severe in rapidly urbanising economies – China, India and others.
Something has to break. When Jakarta is likely to reach gridlock by 2014, when more than 100,000 people die in road accidents in India, when Saigon has no road space for even scooters during rush hour, and when Beijing has a 4 day traffic jam – it is time to re-think transportation. The car created wealth for the world for over 100 years, but it is now a significant contributor to the degradation of the planet. How many lanes, fly-overs, by-passes, can you build in a crowded city? The need of the hour is to create a transportation system for the next century that is clean, green, rapid, and easy to overlay in dense urban settings. The Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) promises to be a new age urban mobility solution. Fairwood is “leading the way” in spearheading PRT applications in the Asian cities.
Mass transit systems are designed to carry a large number of people, but suffer from inadequate last-mile coverage and rarely provide “full journey” solutions. Many large cities in Asia have implemented very small mass transit systems – subways, urban trains, bus rapid transit, monorail, etc. – in some parts. Many others have major projects underway. But these mass transit systems require a lot of time and investment to setup and run, especially if the value of urban land is factored into the project cost. Bangalore’s plan of over $2.0 bn for a metro-rail system will provide a coverage for only 4 % of it’s population, and will take 4 years to build. Delhi has taken 15 years of sustained metro development to reach a very basic coverage – London has taken many decades for the Underground to have great coverage.
The flood of urbanisation does not afford us the luxury of time.
So, what is a good transportation system? What attributes must it possess, to create a new paradigm for the new century? Here is what we thought a new system must possess:
- · On-call, no waiting
- · Full journey solution
- · High capacity
- · Low carbon footprint
- · No conflict, no casualty
- · Rapid, time saving
- · Personal
- · Comfortable, secure
- · Cheap fares
- · Intelligent
- · Easy and fast, overlay in dense areas
But most of all, it must take cars off the road. Many systems aspire for such ambitions.
Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) is a revolutionary new system that does meet all of the above criteria – it is the only system in the world that does. Now Fairwood is leading the way to implement urban PRT systems in many cities in India and in Asia. The PRT system consists of driverless PODs running on a elevated and/or separate simple guide ways. The pods, running on rubber tires powered through electrical motors with batteries, are centrally controlled and guided though lasers to run on the track smoothly. Stations are situated offline and allow pods to move from start to the end of the journey non stop without any interruptions.
These defining characteristics of the PRT system make it uniquely positioned as a new form of urban transportation. Being a personal transport, people will prefer it to mass transit systems. The system is built in such a way that usually a pod is waiting for the passenger rather than a passenger waiting for the pod. Due to stations being offline and the automated controlling of pods, journeys are non stop and without any conflict. This makes the system very efficient, as capacity is only used when it is required and there is no wastage. PRT uses only 0.5 MJoules of energy per passenger km, which is 72% less than cars, and 50% less than trains or buses.
Fairwood has been working to bring this system to India for last 3 years. Six projects with a cumulative capital expenditure of over US$ 5 Billion are currently under advanced discussion/negotiations with city authorities in India, Vietnam and Indonesia. Once implemented these projects will result in 60% saving in travel time, and reduce ambient pollution levels in the project areas. Currently, one project in Amritsar connecting Golden Temple to other transportation hubs of the city is under the final bidding process – the first urban PRT project in the world.
One of Green Growth Leaders’ main focus is to achieve transformative change in the global energy systems – in generation, in distribution, and in application.
Our energy systems are outdated, dirty, and unsustainable. The world is in desperate need of a clean, renewable, and cheap source of energy. The sun is the most abundant source of energy in the world. A miniscule percentage of the sun’s energy falling on earth every hour is enough for the entire energy needs of the world for an entire year. Fairwood is working towards harnessing of this unending clean source of energy through photovoltaic materials. Fairwood has formed a Joint venture with Solar Green, a Canada based company – the new company has been named Fairwood Solar Green.
As compared to conventional solar cell efficiencies of 15-17%, our technology called “Wavicle™” is capable of producing modules which are 23% efficient, with a 40% higher plant load factor. This breakthrough was achieved by using a mixture of Silicon and Carbon as a base substrate rather than just pure Silicon. This allows us to capture more energy from sun’s rays. The presence of carbon in substrate allows the cell to perform in a much higher temperature range as compared to normal Silicon based cells. These cells are able to capture light at oblique angles allowing our panels to give almost a 40% higher plant load factor. Since, no tracking is required, the capital cost of tracking and higher maintenance cost of tracking is avoided.
The twin advantage of higher efficiency and higher plant load factor by using this technology means that once solar panels made through this technology become widely available, it will be possible to produce energy from the sun at a cost which is cheaper than energy from oil or gas or coal – achieving the Holy Grail of Grid Parity.
Fairwood is working on setting up a wafer, cell and module fabrication unit in India for production of the panels. A poly-silicon plant is a probable future initiative. The fabrication unit will be an integrated unit. The project will have a starting manufacturing capacity of 480 MW in the initial years, scaling up to 12GW by the 10th year of operation – a truly mega project. The initial capital expenditure, of the first phase, will be $1 billion. The project when fully operational will help in powering up millions of homes using clean and green energy across India and the world.
Going beyond what is the norm in industry, Fairwood is also committing to putting up a plasma gasification waste disposal plant so as to dispose of the used solar panels at the end of their natural life of 25 years.
Fairwood believes that solar is not an alternative energy source, but the future main-stream energy for the world.
Apart from these initiatives our other work in creating new and sustainable cities is continuing, with work going on in 3 new city design assignments. Also our work on creating waste-to-energy projects, using Plasma Gasification technology is also underway, albeit not at the speed we would like.
Fairwood firmly believes that green growth is not just about is not about following the norms and benchmarks, but about setting them and taking the road not taken.