“Callgate” / “Kerala Solar Scam”: Part 3 – Murder, Movie Stars, Intrigue, and the Movie.


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Reshmi Pillai (Source: mathrubhumi.com)

Reshmi Pillai (Source: mathrubhumi.com)

Reshmi was the youngest of the three daughters of LIC agent Parameshwaran Pillai and Saradamaniamma from Kollam. About 13 years ago, Reshmi, a B.Ed. student was staying at Biju Radhakrishnan’s house as a paying guest.

Biju Radhakrishnan, a hardcore criminal, loved money and women and wanted to become a billionaire. Biju, believing that he could become rich by marrying Reshmi, enticed her, and Reshmi succumbed to his charming ways.

In 2001, they eloped, but did not get legally married. Their relation soured when Reshmi realized Biju’s follies and Biju came to know that she was not as wealthy as he had believed. However, after some period she returned and started living with Biju.

Saritha S. Nair (Source: newindianexpress.com)

Saritha S. Nair (Source: newindianexpress.com)

Saritha S. Nair was born into a lower-middle-class family in Chengannur. At the age of 18, she married a Dubai-based NRI. After obtaining her B.Com degree, Saritha got a job at a private bank in Kozhencherry, where she cheated her employer of र2 lakh. Next, she joined a private firm where she came in contact with the already married Biju Radhakrishnan. They were intimate.

Reshmi opposed Biju’s relationship with Saritha. Very often Biju beat Reshmi and sometimes in front of their son. Not able to bear the blows, Reshmi left him and lived with her parents.

On February 4, 2006, Reshmi was found lying unconscious in the bathroom at Biju’s Kottarakkara house. She had head injuries. Biju assisted by his neighbours took her to a hospital. Biju claimed that she had hurt herself after slipping in the bathroom. Reshmi was declared dead on arrival. Relatives and neighbors were doubtful and did not believe that Reshmi committed suicide as she had two children to take care of.

Biju absconded after Reshmi’s death, and the Kottarakkara police registered five fraud cases against him. For the past seven years, the police and the crime branch were clueless about his whereabouts. Though he had committed huge frauds using fake names and addresses, not a single police person had seen him until the date of his arrest on June 17, 2013.

In 2007, after divorcing her husband, Saritha Nair lived with Biju Radhakrishnan.

The duo started their career in crime first by enticing people by providing loans at very low-interest rates. Next, they targeted businessmen needing large sums of money. Saritha would bait them by promising funds from abroad. Following the modus operandi of email scammers, Saritha would convince the victims that the loan would be sanctioned only after paying a service fee. After collecting around two to three lakh rupees, the duo would fade away.

In 2009, the police arrested the couple for cheating a resident of Kakkanad of र1.lakh after promising to install a windmill plant.

The duo began their career in crime first by enticing people by providing loans at very low-interest rates. Next, they targeted businessmen needing large sums of money. Saritha would bait them by promising funds from abroad. Following the modus operandi of email scammers, Saritha would convince the victims that the loan would be sanctioned only after paying a service fee. After collecting around two to three lakh rupees, the duo would fade away.

In 2009, the police arrested the couple for cheating a resident of Kakkanad of र1.lakh after promising to install a windmill plant.

In 2011, after their release, the couple moved their operation to Kochi, and launched Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions aka The Team Solar Energy Company (Team Solar). They advertised Team Solar as “one of the world’s largest renewable energy groups.”

Needing political clout to exploit gullible people, Saritha cultivated contacts with the personal staff of politicians, including the personal aides of Kerala chief ministers. K C Joseph, present Minister for Rural Development, Planning&Culture of the Government of Kerala, inaugurated Saritha’s Kottayam office.

Starlets, sex, blackmail and murder formed the base of the duo’s Solar scam.

Shalu Menon

Shalu Menon

Shalu Menon

Shalu Menon, 30, a dancer-turned-television Malayalam actress, the granddaughter of a famous Kerala dancer, was the first actress involved in the Solar scam. Shalu’s role in the scam surfaced after an NRI businessman named Razik Ali filed a complaint that Biju Radhkarishnan and Shalu Menon had cheated him of र70 lakh by offering a non-existent franchise and a wind farm in Tamil Nadu.

Shalu Menon, Born into a middle-class family, was a familiar face in the cultural world of Kerala. She runs a chain of dance schools under the banner the Jayakerala School of Performing Arts, that boasts having more than 1,000 students. Acting in Malayalam films and TV serials since 1998, her social circle revolved around the rich, famous and powerful. Her political connections helped her earn a berth in the Kerala Censor Board.

Shalu Menon was arrested on July 5, 2013, as the third accused in the Solar scam.  (Source: newindianexpress.com)

Shalu Menon was arrested on July 5, 2013, as the third accused in the Solar scam. (Source: newindianexpress.com)

She was arrested on July 5, 2013, as the third accused in the Solar scam, and for committing an offence under IPC 212 for harbouring and helping the key
accused Biju Radhkarishnan to flee from the state of Kerala by giving him her car and mobile to use while escaping.

During interrogation by the police, Shalu Menon admitted to the links she had with Saritha Nair and Biju Radhkarishnan, the brains behind the scam. She told the police that Biju Radhkarishnan approached her requesting her to model for his company’s advertisements. Later, she became intimate with him.

Shalu Menon added that Saritha Nair too had approached her to learn dance at her school.

Biju had presented Shalu diamond, gold and silver ornaments, and had conveyed his intentions of marrying her. He had given her money to build a palatial house in Changanasserry, and she had helped Biju by enticing investors and politicians. Many politicians and VVIPs including Union minister Kodikkunnil Suresh and state Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan were embarrassed when videos and photographs littered the media showing them attending the house-warming ceremony of Shalu’s palatial bungalow and enjoying the tender coconuts.

On investigation it was revealed that Shalu was a frequent visitor to Biju’s office in Thiruvananthapuram. The police found documents, including cheques and vouchers signed by Shalu in the office. Biju’s employees told the police that Biju introduced Shalu as an executive director of the firm.

Swiss Solar employee Likhitha filed a case against Shalu Menon and Biju Radhakrishnan for duping her of lakhs of rupees. In February 2013 Biju introduced Shalu as the Executive Director of Swiss Solar Company and promised to appoint Likhitha as the CEO of the company. He offered her a salary of rupees one lakh. But the actual salary that Likhitha received was only र50,000 while Biju swindled her to the tune of र1.19 lakhs on the pretext of office expenses. Actually, Biju used this money to clear the dues of his clients.

The affidavit filed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) at the court said that Shalu Menon is the third accused in the case, and an offence under IPC 212 for harbouring an accused has been charged against her.

Uthara Unni

Uthara Unni (Source: balconybeats.com)

Uthara Unni (Source: balconybeats.com)

In July 2013, the name of another Mollywood film actress, Uthara Unni, surfaced in connection with the Solar Scam. Speaking to a Kerala TV channel, actress Urmila Unni, mother of Uthara, denied reports that her daughter was Team Solar’s brand ambassador, but only had modeled for Team Solar’s advertisements. However, a Facebook page in the name of Uthara Unni had mentioned her as the brand ambassador of Team Solar.

The Ernakulam South Police registered a FIR against Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan following the complaint by a Kochi-based travel agency with regard to a bounced cheque for र1.73 lakh given by the scammers after booking air tickets to Chennai and New Delhi. Uthara Unni was one of the passengers for whom the air tickets were booked.

According to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that carried out by the Investigation said the budding actress is not directly involved in the case. “She travelled with Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha Nair to Chennai only for advertisement photo shoots and is not directly linked with the scam.”

Urmila Unni admitted that her daughter Uthara went to Chennai, where she is studying, on the ticket provided by Team Solar.

The police then wanted to question Uthara about her travel details to Dubai with Biju Radhakrishnan.

Muktha Bhanu

Muktha Elsa George

Muktha Elsa George

In mid July 2013, Mollywood actress Muktha Elsa George, popularly known as Muktha or Bhanu, said that she was cheated by Biju Radhakrishnan of Team Solar. According to her, Biju had approached her and promised to include her in the calendar photo shoot for Team Solar, as a replacement for Uthara Unni, who did not curry favour with his associates. She accepted rupees ten thousand as an advance from Biju Radhakrishnan for this assignment. She also said that Biju had offered a job for her sister in the solar office in Thiruvannathapuram, but was double crossed.

Solar Swapnam, The Movie

The notorious Solar scam scandal that stirred the political stability of Kerala has swayed the Malayalam film industry too. Now, an American Film Company named Dream World Productions has launched production of a movie titled “Solar Swapnam” directed by joy Antony and scripted by Raju George. K. Jayakumar has penned the lyrics for the film and Jayan Ezhuman Thuruthu has composed the music.

Actress Pooja will characterize Saritha S. Nair and bear the name Haritha S. Nair (Source: entertainment.oneindia.in)

Actress Pooja will characterize Saritha S. Nair and bear the name Haritha S. Nair (Source: entertainment.oneindia.in)

It is hoped that the movie Solar Swapnam would narrate the whole solar scam. Kollywood actress Pooja will characterize Saritha S. Nair and bear the name Haritha S. Nair. Kollywood actor Bhuvan will portray Biju Radhakrishnan. Kollywood actors Jananardhanan, Harisree Asokan, Nandhu, Mohan Roy, Sona Nair, P. Sreekumar and Aarthi Puri will act in significant roles in the movie.

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“Callgate” / “Kerala Solar Scam”: Part 2 – The Arrests


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Kerala Legislative Assembly, Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar)

Kerala Legislative Assembly, Thiruvananthapuram. (Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar)

This year the public came to know about the Kerala Solar Scam perpetrated by Saritha Nair and her live-in-scam-partner Biju Radhakishnan who duped many people by falsely promising solar panels and equities in non-existent solar and wind farms.

In early June 2013, one of the investors K.M. Sajjad, an industrialist from Kollam, who had paid an advance of र40 lakh for setting up a solar and windmill farm filed a case against Team Solar. Later, the police said, the letter typed on the letterhead of the Chief Minister with the CM’s signature and shown to Sajad was a forgery. Sajjad said that he got in touch with Team Solar after seeing a Team Solar advertisement in the newspapers and ended up parting with र40 lakh for a solar power plant and windmills in Tamil Nadu.

Many cases for cheating and criminal breach of trust have been registered against the duo. Up to end of July 2013, police stations across the state registered 33 cases against Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan.

As on July 2013, six cases were registered against Team Solar in the city of Kochi – five cases in Town North station and one case in Town South police station. On July 16, 2013, Sarita Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan, were remanded to police custody for four days by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences) Court and directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the six cases. According to SIT, Sarita and Biju had been operating out of their office on Chittoor Road from 2010 onwards under the names of West Wind Corporates and Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions.

Reginald George filed a case in the Town North Police station that said he was cheated of र95.86 lakh by Team Solar for a part of a windmill project in Idukki.

The Town North Police has also registered a case against Abhilash Nair and Santhosh of Team Solar, on the basis of a complaint lodged by V.P. Joy of Muvattupuzha for allegedly cheating him of र1.60 lakh as he was promised a part of a windmill project in Idukki.

A jewellery showroom at Padivattom which has shops around the world, accused Team Solar of cheating them of र23.5 lakh on the pretext of setting up solar panels at
their showroom.

In the Malabar region several medical practitioners fell into their trap. About 11 petitions were filed against Biju Radhakishnan in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Ernakulam, of which, ten petitioners were doctors.

On September 10, 2013, confident of his protectors in the government, Salim Raj, former bodyguard of  Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, attempted to abduct a couple in broad daylight on a highway. Seeing the commotion, a lot of local people gathered around them. Though Salim Raj threatened them by flashing his police ID card, the angry locals did not give in and refused to let him and his goons leave until the police came and took them into custody.

Saritha Nair was arrested on June 3, 2013. (Express photo)

Saritha Nair was arrested on June 3, 2013. (Photo: Deshabhimani)

On June 5, 2013, Sarita Nair was arrested by the Perumbavoor police from a house in Edappazhanji, Thiruvananthapuram, where she was hiding. Sarita told the police that she had no contact for the past one year with the  absconding Biju Radhakishnan.

Biju Radhakishnan was arrested in Coimbatore June 17, 2013, for the murder of his wife Reshmi. (Express file photo)

Biju Radhakishnan was arrested in Coimbatore June 17, 2013, for the murder of his wife Reshmi. (Express file photo)

On June 17, 2013, Biju Radhakishnan was arrested in Coimbatore for the murder of his wife Reshmi on February 4, 2006 at his Kottarakkara house. Biju told the police that he was advised by a lawyer in Ernakulam to leave the state and stay underground until he fetched an anticipatory bail for him in the solar panel scam. He said it was the same lawyer who also advised him to speak to the news channels and reveal the role played by Chief Minister’s staff. However, the  lawyer cheated him he said.

When the police nabbed Biju in Coimbatore he had only र20 in his purse. One of the policemen said:

The conman who duped several to the tune of crores of rupees did not even have money to pay his taxi bill. He had told the driver that he would pay him after selling his laptop.”

On October 9, 2013, Biju Radhakrishnan told the Judicial First Class Magistrate court in Thiruvananthapuram that he was ready to reveal the names of the top political leaders involved in the scam.

Kerala reeled under the scam. The media dubbed the scam “Callgate” and “Kerala Solar Scam“. The duo had used cine starlets for sex and blackmail.

The scandal created havoc in the ruling Congress party. The amounts involved in each case varied from a few lakhs to a few crores with the total, calculated by complaints, amounted to less than र10 crore (US$1.6 million) – a meagre amount when compared to other scams perpetrated by others in India. However, the aggressive protests by Leftist political parties made the scam notorious.

Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister of Kerala.

Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister of Kerala.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s “Mr. Clean” image was muddied, and brought his government to its knees. The Opposition parties demanded his resignation.

Salim Raj, Tenny Joppan and Jikumon Jacob were members of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s personal staff and his closest confidants for eight years and had links
with Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakishnan, the accused in the multi-crore solar scam. However, only Tenny Joppan was arrested.

Media reports said that Salim Raj, the former bodyguard of the Chief Minister, had made a number of calls to the accused in the Solar scam. However, the Special Investigation Team which probes the solar scam exonerated him.

Salim Raj outside a court in Kozhikode (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Salim Raj outside a court in Kozhikode (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

On September 10, 2013, confident of his protectors in the government, Salim Raj attempted to abduct a couple in broad daylight on a highway. Seeing the commotion, a lot of local people gathered around them. Though Salim Raj threatened them by flashing his police ID card, the angry locals did not give in and refused to let Salim Raj and his goons leave until the police came and took them into custody.

Jikkumon Jacob,  a personal staff of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy.

Jikkumon Jacob, a personal staff of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy.

Jikkumon Jacob, assistant PA to CM’s personal assistant P. Sivadasan and member of chief minister’s personal staff, resigned on his own from the post following allegations of his involvement with Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakishna, the main accused in the solar panel case. The special investigation team led by ADGP quizzed Jikkumon since his mobile number appears in the call lists of those who had Telephoned Saritha Nair.

However, no action was taken against Jikkumon.

Tenny Joppan, a long-time aide and former personal staff member of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was arrested on June28, 2013.

Tenny Joppan, a long-time aide and former personal staff member of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was arrested on June28, 2013.

On June 28, 2013, Tenny Joppan, a long-time aide and former personal staff member of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was removed from the CM’s office following the controversies. He was arrested after a three-hours interrogation at Chengannur DYSP office, when the CM had gone to Bahrain to receive a UN award for his mass contact programmes.  He was charged under Section 420 of IPC (cheating) and Sec 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance) and listed as the third accused in the Solar scam case, along with Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan.

M.G. Joppan, father of Tenny said the real culprits in the case are outside the bars. He said:

Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan’s police came to arrest Tenny when Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was out of station. Tenny was made a scapegoat. There has been a conspiracy behind this. Many people including Salim Raj and Jikku are safe outside. Tenny hasn’t earned anything illegally.”

On August 23, 2013, Kerala High Court granted bail to Joppen.

A. Firoze, former director of Kerala's Information and Public Relations department.

A. Firoze, former director of Kerala’s Information and Public Relations department.

On July 18, 2013, A. Firoze, suspended Director of the  Information and Public Relations Department, surrendered at the Medical College Police station after the Kerala High Court rejected his plea for anticipatory bail. He was accused of defrauding a Thiruvananthapuram builder of र40 lakh promising to arrange an Asian Development Bank loan for setting up a solar facility. Firoze had reportedly introduced Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha Nair to the builder saying one of them was a offical of ADB.

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“Callgate” / “Kerala Solar Scam”: Part 1 – Team Solar


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Three year ago when the Kerala State was reeling under a severe power crisis, the Kerala government came up with several schemes for generation of power from solar and wind energy.

Saritha S. Nair (Photo: Indiavision)

Saritha S. Nair (Photo: Indiavision)

Sensing the ambience was just about right for investment in these sectors, Saritha S. Nair and live-in-partner Biju Radhakishnan, now under arrest on charges varying from cheating people of crores of rupees to murder, floated the now defunct company The Team Solar Energy Company (Team Solar). When it was in business, Team Solar advertised itself as “one of the world’s largest renewable energy groups,” and had an impressive clientele. They placed advertisements in the media offering a gamut of services such as setting up solar panels and windmills at cheap rates, obtaining government subsidies, and making it easy for the absorption of generated
power to the state power grid.

Zonal office of Team Solar on Chittoor Road in Kochi (Photo: H. Vibhu)

Zonal office of Team Solar on Chittoor Road in Kochi (Photo: H. Vibhu)

Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakishnan had been charged earlier in various cheating cases and were out on bail. In 2009, Saritha Nair was arrested for cheating a resident of Kakkanad of र1.60 lakh after promising to install a windmill plant. This was besides other cases that had been registered against them elsewhere

Interestingly, even though the duo was out on bail, Saritha got in touch with senior police officials over the phone for new assignments. In 2012, Team Solar was assigned to set up solar power equipment at the top-level offices of the City Police – office of the City Police Commissioner, senior police officials, the Police Club – and at the offices of ministers.

Team Solar provided guided tours for prospective entrepreneurs and took them to government lands at various places claiming that they were the spots where their solar or wind energy units would be set up. They even showed some people windmills in Tamil Nadu which they claimed as Team Solar projects.

The investors were asked to sign Memorandum of understanding (MOU), part with their money, and then sit back and enjoy the returns of their investment. Team Solar also inveigled investors by offering to make them business partners.

An undisclosed source inside Team Solar said that even though Team Solar had its hands full of orders, only those of celebrity clients were taken up.

Team Solar assuaged any doubting Thomas by using the stock phrase:

“If you are not convinced, here is the CM’s PA Tenny Joppan on the line, please speak to him.”

If Joppan was unavailable, they would call the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s security officer Salim Raj, or Jikkumon Jacob, a member of chief minister’s personal staff. The fact that the Chief Minister of Kerala did not own a mobile phone went in favour of the scammers because anyone who wanted to contact the Chief Minister, including MLAs, had to call his personal aides who in turn put them through to him. Later on, the media revealed that Saritha Nair made hundreds of calls every week from her cell phones to these gentlemen in office, and received many calls from the Chief Minister’s landline.

Salim Raj, former Security Officer of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy

Salim Raj, former Security Officer of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy

Salim Raj, 42, was an ordinary constable in the Kerala Police and a former bodyguard of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. Salim wielded so much power that on October 1, 2013, Justice Harul-ul-Rashid of Kerala High Court, while hearing petitions seeking a CBI inquiry into a land grab case against Salim Raj, remarked:

“Is Kerala’s administration functioning only to serve the mafia? Does this mere police constable think he is the chief minister? Why should people be so afraid of him? Is even the state DGP scared of this policeman? What kind of democracy is this?”

The judge’s remark came in the wake of complaints from many members of the public, the Opposition, and even repeated comments by the courts about the United Democratic Front (UDF) government’s unstinted support for Salim Raj, whenever he landed in trouble. Justice Rashid was particularly disturbed by the state DGP K.S. Balasubramanian, who on receiving an alleged land grabbing complaint against Salim Raj forwarded it to the Chief Minister instead of taking action himself.

Due to Salim Raj’s clout with the government his name was not included in the FIR registered by the police on a land grab case in Kochi in spite of the petitions asserted that he was the main culprit.

Salim Raj has also been accused of having played a role in the solar scam in addition to other charges related to land grab, fabrication of records, abduction, among others.

Salim Raj who belongs to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s home district Kottayam has been the CM’s official bodyguard since 2005 when he was an Opposition leader. In 2009, Chandy inducted Salim Raj into the Chief Minister’s security detail, ignoring adverse intelligence reports about him.

Sridharan Nair (Pic: Indiavision)

Sridharan Nair (Pic: Indiavision)

When Sreedharan Nair, a victim of the scam, wanted further assurance about the project to manufacture solar panels, he was asked to sign an MOU with a commitment of र5.5 crore. He then had to pay र25 lakh out of the first instalment of र40 lakh before being taken to the Chief Minister’s office, where Tenny Joppan gave an assurance for the investment in the solar panel plant to be installed at Kanjikode in Palakkad district. An agreement in this regard was signed at Joppan’s cabin at the Chief Minister’s office. Sreedharan Nair had asserted that he had even met the chief minister, accompanied by Saritha Nair.

To gain media coverage and credibility the Global Management of Team Solar instituted awards that carried prize money. On June 11, 2011, at a function held at Hotel Dreams, Ernakulam, six prominent people of Kerala were proffered the ‘Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Awards 2011‘ and ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar‘ award for their work in the field of environmental protection.

Prof. Dr. S. Sitaraman, renowned environmental activist and Secretary of Association of Environmental Protection was presented the 'Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar' by K. P. Mohanan, Minister for Agriculture in presense of company officials and Hybi Edan, MLA, Ernakulam.

Prof. Dr. S. Sitaraman, renowned environmental activist and Secretary of Association of Environmental Protection was presented the ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar’ by K. P. Mohanan, Minister for Agriculture in presense of company officials and Hybi Edan, MLA, Ernakulam.

Prof. Dr. S. Sitaraman, renowned environmental activist and Secretary of Association of Environmental Protection and president of Kerala Brahmana Sabha, Aluva Upasabha, Fr. Johnson J. Palakkappillil, principal, Sacred Heart College and Dr. Georgekutty Karianappalli, CEO, Lifeway Solar were awarded the ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar‘.

 Malayalam film star Mammooty is among six persons chosen for the ‘Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Awards 2011′ and ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar’ award for their work in the field of environmental protection.

Malayalam film star Mammooty is among six persons chosen for the ‘Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Awards 2011′ and ‘Green Golden Feather Environment Puraskar’ award for their work in the field of environmental protection.

Malayalam cine star Mammootty, Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany, and K. K. Krishnadas, CEO of Vallarpadam Transhipment Terminal-DP World, were among the six beneficiaries of the ‘Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Award‘.

K.P. Mohanan, Minister for Agriculture, and Hybi Edan, MLA, Ernakulam attended the function.

Mayor Chammany told reporters that Saritha under the name Lakshmi Nair had approached him and told him about their award. He said he had met Biju Radhakrishnan at the award function and was introduced to him as Dr. R.B. Nair. He further said:

Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany“I was told that the award, as part of their World Environment Day celebration, was for the council’s decision to adopt energy efficient lighting practices. As many other eminent people were also receiving the award, I did not see anything wrong in accepting it. It is only now that I found out about her name and the scam. … But she has not received any help or support from me.”

Even though there were some complaints about Team Solar, no action was taken against them. A senior police official said:

The problem was that no one came forward to lodge a formal complaint, as they used to concentrate on people with unaccounted money. A majority of the victims chose not to proceed with the case and were happy if they got the money back.

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Who Needs a Grill? Build a Hot-Box Solar Oven


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He “grills out” with a homemade solar oven, which heats up to 350 degrees. This solar oven gets hot enough to bake a killer batch of scones—and in the summer, it can whip up brownies in a brownout.

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WILLIAM GURSTELLE

By William Gurstelle

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Solar Cooker

No power? No problem.

This afternoon project will let you cook off the grid with a sun-fueled oven hot enough to raise some dough.

1) Find Parts

The project makes use of scraps (or full 4 x 8 sheets) of ¾-inch and ½-inch plywood. It also requires 4d trim nails, a 6-foot length of 1½-inch-wide flat wood trim, 36 inches of ¼-inch-square molding, a half-sheet of ½-inch rigid foam insulation, a half-sheet of ½-inch drywall, two white ceramic knobs, eight 3-inch mending plates, construction adhesive, high-­temperature flat black spray paint, heavy-duty aluminum foil, No. 8 bolts, washers and nuts and a piece of ¼-inch plate glass cut to 13 x 14½ inches, with the edges sanded smooth.

2) Build the Box

Construct an open-top box using ¾-inch plywood for a 14 x 15½–inch bottom. Use ½-inch plywood to make four 7-inch-tall sides. With a vise and pliers, bend the mending plates to 135-degree angles. Fasten two plates to each box side with 1-inch No. 8 bolts, washers and nuts. Cut pieces of rigid foam insulation to line the box interior. Glue the foam to the plywood using construction adhesive. Cut and glue drywall panels to fit on top of the foam. Paint the interior black.

3) Prep the Top

Nail wood trim over the edges of the foam and drywall. Cut the molding into four 9-inch lengths. Center the glass pane over the opening. Put the moldings around the glass perimeter. Nail them down to steady the pane. Glue the knobs to the glass.

4) Make Reflectors

Cut rigid foam to four 12 x 24–inch panels. Wrap the foam in aluminum foil. Bolt the panels to the plates.

5) Bake It Up

Prep food in a black enamel­ pot with a lid; set the pot in the box. Replace the glass. Prop up the oven at an angle so the sun and reflectors shine directly on it. Use an oven thermometer to gauge the heat.

Note: This oven does not bake as quickly as a regular one, but our scones, with butter and lingonberry jam, were still delicious. Wear oven mitts to handle the ceramic knobs—they get hot!

Re-posted from Popular Mechanics

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A Quantum Leap in the Field of Solar Power Generation in Gujarat


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When the entire world is engulfed by the problem of climate change, it is Gujarat’s dream to demonstrate before the world an example of climate justice. – Gujarat Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat

The projects spread over several districts: Anand, Banaskantha, Jamnangar, Junagadh, Kutch, Porbandar, Rajkot, Surat, and Surendranagar, including this ‘Gujarat Solar Park’, Asia’s largest, have in total the potential to generate 30 lakh units of clean energy per day.

The ‘Gujarat Solar Park’ spread in 3,000-acre land has already attracted investments from 21 national and international companies.

“This achievement is not merely a step in the direction of power conservation but it provides the world with a vision that how the power needs of the future generations can be solved in an environment-friendly manner”, Modi said on the occasion.

“Due to the efforts made by the Gujarat government, the cost of solar power has come down to ₹8.50 per unit from ₹15 per unit,” Modi claimed adding that the cost will further go down to rupees four per unit in future once the supply of solar power increases.

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Photos: DeshGujarat

Solar Power Is a Bargain …


After Hurricane Sandy put people, power, and nuclear reactors at risk along the east coast of the US- renewable energy’s economic as well as environmental benefits eliminate even more reasons not to move forward to safe energy. - Dr Helen Caldicott

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New Study Finds that Solar Power Is a Bargain for Ratepayers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

BORDENTOWN, N.J., Nov. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ –

The Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association (MSEIA) and the Pennsylvania Solar Energy Industries Association (PASEIA) today released a study by consulting firm Clean Power Research showing that solar power in New Jersey and Pennsylvania delivers value to the electricgrid that exceeds its cost by a large margin, making it a bargain for energy consumers.Energy providers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are required to buy certain amounts of solar power each year. They pay a premium for that solar power in the form of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates, or SRECs, and pass this premium cost on to ratepayers. The study found that solar power delivers a total levelized value ranging from $256 to $318 per MWh (25.6 cents to 31.8 cents per kWh). However, this includes a premium value in the range of $150 to $200 per MWh (15 cents to 20 cents per kWh), above the value of the solar electricity generated. The SRECs in New Jersey currently cost about $60/MWh (6 cents per KWh), and in Pennsylvania they cost about $20/ MWh (2 cents per KWH).

“This indicates that electric ratepayers in the region are getting more than a two-to-one return on their investment in solar energy,” said Dennis Wilson, President of MSEIA, “Although the current SREC prices are unsustainably low, our analysis indicates that SRECs can increase in price, deliver net benefits and still support strong solar growth. Solar power has proven it can deliver value that exceeds its cost by 50% to over 100%. This net positive benefit will only increase as solar technology continues to drop in cost.”

Clic this link for full text of the report — > “The Value of Distributed Solar Electric Generation to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“Both states have considered expanded investments in solar energy. This study shows that such programs and policies are well justified from an economic standpoint and generate far more instate jobs than central plant generation. Add together the proven public health, security and environmental benefits, and it’s clear that aggressive solar power development is a win for these states and their residents,” said Lyle Rawlings, Vice President of MSEIA, New Jersey division.

“We are very excited about this study,” said Ron Celentano, President of PASEIA and Pennsylvania VP of MSEIA. “For the first time the solar industry can show the quantitative benefits of implementing solar energy technologies specifically in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For more than three years we have been unsuccessful with enhancing our solar share requirement in Pennsylvania, largely because solar was perceived as only a cost to rate payers. But this study concludes that the value of solar far exceeds the costs to both the rate payer and taxpayer.”

“Solar PV does not get a fair shake in our current utility accounting protocols because those rules evolved for centralized, large scale power plants,” says Roger Clark, manager of The Reinvestment Fund’s Sustainable Development Fund, a major funder of this study. “We supported this study because it is critical to understand the costs and benefits of solar so that our energy policies, such as Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, are grounded on an accurate perception of the value of solar energy.”

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania are major solar markets in terms of the amount of solar capacity already installed. Each has great opportunity for continued clean energy industry growth. New Jersey, the nation’s second-largest solar market with 900 MW of solar capacity, is the first state to generate more than 1% of its annual electricity from solar energy. Its annual solar share is now approaching one and a half percent, with contributions during peak demand periods several times higher. Once one of the nation’s fastest growing solar markets, Pennsylvania has since fallen to eighth place in installed capacity. Increasing the state’s near- term solar commitment would put Pennsylvania solar growth back on track.

According to Richard Perez, one of the authors of the study, “This report broke new ground in that it incorporated a wealth of utility power cost data, enabling detailed analysis of economic drivers such as the ‘merit order effect,’ according to which power can have different values depending on when it is generated. Solar energy has inherent advantages stemming from such economic drivers.” Today’s report assessed the value of modest solar penetration (15% of utility peak load) at six locations: Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton, Philadelphia, Newark, Atlantic City, and Jamesburg. Research concluded that by offsetting the need for conventional power, distributed solar power delivers measurable benefits, including:

Lower conventional electricity market prices due to reduced peak demand;

Valuable price hedge from using a free, renewable fuel rather than variably-priced fossil fuels;

Avoided costs of new transmission and distribution infrastructure to manage electricity delivery from centralized power plants;

Reduced need to build, operate and maintain natural gas generating plants;

Reduced outages due to a more reliable, distributed electric power system;

Reduced future costs of mitigating the environmental impacts of coal, natural gas, nuclear, and other generation;

Enhanced tax revenues associated with local job creation, which is higher for solar than conventional power generation.

Prepared by Clean Power Research, the report was funded by the following organizations: The Reinvestment Fund’s Sustainable Development Fund, Mid Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association, Advanced Solar Products, SMA Americas, Vote Solar, Renewable Power, and Geoscape Solar.

About MSEIA

MSEIA, the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association, is a solar energy advocacy trade association which represents over 100 solar companies doing business in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

Established in 1997 by solar energy advocates, MSEIA is an historic and highly-effective non-profit membership organization created to advocate for solar energy incentives, create permanent solar energy jobs and a renewable energy infrastructure, and promote solar energy as a viable and important source of energy for the future. Our efforts in the legislature and with the Board of Public Utilities have been instrumental in helping to create the New Jersey solar industry.

About PASEIA: The Pennsylvania Division of MSEIA. PASEIA is an organization of manufacturers, developers, contractors, installers, architects, engineers, consultants and other industry professionals dedicated to advancing the interests of solar energy and to developing a strong local PA industry offering high quality installation and professional services to business and residential customers in the region we serve.

Dennis Wilson, President of MSEIA dennis@renewablepowerinc.com973-854-9365

Lyle Rawlings, Vice President of MSEIAlyle@advancedsolarproducts.com 908-751-5818

Marianne Leone, Admin for MSEIA info@mseia.net 973-886-0526

SOURCE Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association

Originally published by Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association.

(c) 2012 PRNewswire. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc. 

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Critics: Sandy Showed Nuclear Plants’ Vulnerability to Weather, Sabotage


Frequent storms, wilder weather extremes- nuclear facilities face dangers they are not prepared for. They put all of us at risk by their very nature. This is only compounded by regulatory laxness. It’s time to regulate the regulators, and long past time to start shutting down the reactors. We have energy alternatives that are safer and better. We must put our attention to developing and using them. We can’t wait until the nuclear industry is satisfied that they have gotten the last possible cent they can squeeze out of the public and government coffers. — Dr. Helen Caldicott

Oldest nuclear power plants in usa Nine Mile Point Unit 1

Constellation Energy’s Nine Mile Point Unit 1, on the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario near Oswego, New York, is the second-longest-operating nuclear station in the United States; it opened in 1969, the same year as Oyster Creek, and shares the same design. (Photograph courtesy Constellation Energy via PRNewsFoto)

This article was originally published in Global Security Newswire, produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

By Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire

The danger Hurricane Sandy posed to nuclear power plants along the East Coast highlights some of the same vulnerabilities that terrorists looking to release harmful radiation into the environment could exploit, watchdog groups said this week.

The unprecedented storm posed two main challenges to atomic energy facilities: rising water levels and interruptions to the electricity grid. Both have the potential to disrupt crucial cooling systems at the plants, and particularly those for pools used to cool spent reactor fuel. If spent fuel rods overheat and are exposed to air, they can cause fires and dangerous radiation releases.

In Lacey Township, N.J., the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant faced both of these challenges. High water levels threatened to submerge a water pump motor used to cool water in the plant’s spent fuel pool, Reuters reportedThe situation, caused by a combination of rising tide, wind direction, and storm surge affecting the Atlantic Ocean and adjoining estuaries, prompted the facility to declare an emergency “alert,” according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In addition, the Oyster Creek plant at one point experienced a power disruption that necessitated the use of two backup diesel generators, according to Reuters.

While such auxiliary power can usually keep cooling systems for a nuclear reactor itself operating, activists warn that NRC regulations do not require that such resources also be connected to the mechanisms that cool spent fuel pools.

“As soon as the electric grid goes down, water circulation pumps stop operating,” Kevin Kamps, a radioactive-waste specialist with the group Beyond Nuclear said in a statement released during the storm.

Pool water can begin to boil within “several hours” of loss of cooling, he noted, and could leave fuel rods exposed within “several to many days.”

Kamps told Global Security Newswire that the same problems could be caused by an intentional attack.

“While high winds can knock out the electric grid, so too can sabotage or terrorism,” Kamps said. He added that “normal cooling-water flow pathways and mechanisms,” threatened by high water during the storm at Oyster Creek and other nuclear plants, “could also be disrupted intentionally.”

In the event of a disruption to the usual spent fuel pool cooling system, power-plant operators could use fire fighting equipment in an attempt to replenish water lost through evaporation. Japanese authorities tried similar tactics during the Fukushima Daiichi disaster last year. Watchdog groups argue that relying on this is insufficient, however.

Steam generated by a boiling spent-fuel pool “could short-circuit critical safety systems throughout the nuclear plant,” Kamps said.

Robert Alvarez, who served as a senior adviser to the Energy secretary during the Clinton administration, noted that spent fuel pools were originally designed for temporary storage lasting no longer than five years. He cited a 2006 study by the National Academy of Sciences that said pools at nearly all of the more than 100 reactors in the United States now contain high-density spent-fuel racks that allow about five times more waste to be stored in the pool than was originally intended.

“The Oyster Creek spent-fuel pool is currently holding about 3,000 irradiated assemblies (including a recently discharged full core) containing about 94 million curies of cesium 137—more than three times more released from all atmospheric nuclear weapons tests,” Alvarez, now a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, said by e-mail. “Whether or not mega-storm Sandy portends what’s in store for the near future, it’s still too risky to use high-density spent-fuel pools as de facto indefinite storage for some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet.”

Watchdog groups have long advocated for an NRC rule that would require used fuel rods to be removed from pools and placed in hardened, dry casks as quickly as possible. Alvarez said dry casks at the Fukushima Daiichi site were “unscathed” by the earthquake and tsunami that threatened the plant’s spent fuel-storage pools last and caused meltdowns in three reactors.

Even in a worst-case scenario, the “consequences of a breach in a dry cask in terms of radioactive releases is about 2,500 times less than a spent-fuel pool fire,” Alvarez said. “Whereas a spent-fuel pool fire could create life-threatening contamination of hundreds of square miles.”

Following the Fukushima disaster, watchdog groups petitioned NRC to immediately require a number of upgrades at U.S. atomic energy plants. Among the activists’ demands were that the commission requires dedicated backup power systems for spent-fuel pools and that fuel rods be removed from the pools after five years.

NRC officials rejected the demands that they act immediately on these items, but agreed to consider them in their long-term review of lessons to be learned from Fukushima. Kamps said the threats posed by this week’s storm underscored the urgency of requiring such upgrades.

For now, the commission “is focused on the current situation with the plants,” according to NRC spokesman David McIntyre, who emphasized that “all of them are safe and have performed according to design and their license conditions.

“If there are lessons to be learned from Sandy, we will look at them, but we do not have the luxury that [the watchdog groups] have of being able to jump to conclusions before a situation even plays out,” McIntyre added.

In total, the Hurricane Sandy impacted at least a half-dozen nuclear plants, Reuters reported. Other affected sites include Unit 1 of the Salem, N.J., plant – which was shut down due to high water and debris – and Indian Point 3 in New York, which went offline due to fluctuations in the power grid caused by the storm.

John Keeley, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the nuclear-power industry, noted that the majority of nuclear plants “in the path of the storm continued to produce electricity” and that the “ones that did shut down did so safely and securely.”

This article was originally published in Global Security Newswire, produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

 

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Extreme Heat In the Wake of Solar Flares of Fourth of July and after..


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Solar Flare of Fourth of July 2012 – This still from a NASA video shows a Fourth of July solar flare from sunspot AR1515 on the sun on July 4, 2012 as seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Credit: NASA/SDO)

The National Weather Service statistical data of U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that heat kills more persons per year than lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods combined. In the 10 years from 1994 to 2003, on the average excessive heat claimed 237 lives each year. By contrast, floods killed 84; lightning, 63; tornadoes, 58; and hurricanes, 18.

In the killer heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died. In 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago, Illinois area attributed to the heat wave. In August 2003, in Europe, a record heat wave killed an estimated 50,000 lives.

The sun unleashed some powerful solar flares on July 4, 2012. One solar flare erupted at 0947 GMT (5:47 a.m. EDT) and hit its peak strength eight minutes later. According to the Space Weather Prediction Group operated by NOAA the flare fired off from the active sunspot AR1515, registered as a class M5.3 solar storm on the scale used by astronomers to measure space weather.

Sunspot AR1515 is a huge active region on the sun that covers an area about 62,137 miles long (100,000 kilometers). It has been responsible for a series of strong solar flares in recent days and may not die off soon. In fact, the sunspot region has now spewed 12 M-class solar flares since Tuesday, NASA officials said in a statement on Thursday. This sunspot region has also produced several coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are clouds of plasma and charged particles hurled into space during solar storms.

Spaceweather.com, a space weather tracking website run by astronomer Tony Phillips announced, “The chance of the occurrence of an X-flare  is increasing today as sunspot AR1515 develops a ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field that harbors energy for the most powerful explosions. The sunspot itself is huge, stretching more than 100,000 km (8 Earth-diameters) from end to end.”

X-class solar flares are the strongest sun storms the sun can unleash. M-class flares considered medium-strength, and C-class the weakest.

Radio blackouts can occur when a layer of Earth’s atmosphere, called the ionosphere, is bombarded with X-rays or extreme ultraviolet light from solar eruptions. Disturbances in the ionosphere can change the paths of high and low-frequency radio waves, which can affect information carried along these channels.

So, these flares directed towards Earth have the potential to disrupt satellite transmissions in their paths; endanger unshielded astronauts in space; disrupt GPS signals and communications; and can damage power systems and communications infrastructure on the ground.

Extreme Heat

That same morning on July 4, 2012, another solar flare that reached M2 on the sun storm scale was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft currently watching the sun. The flare peaked at 0437 GMT (12:37 a.m. EDT).

Spaceweather.com said that as of July 4, Earth will be in the crosshairs of any major flares and “any X-flares will certainly be Earth-directed,” they explained. “The sunspot is directly facing our planet.”

However, NASA officials said that the CMEs triggered by this week’s solar flares, however, are moving relatively slowly, and will likely not hit Earth since the active region is located so far south on the face of the sun.

But, the sunspot is slowly rotating toward Earth, and scientists are still monitoring its activity.

“Stay tuned for updates as Region 1515 continues its march across the solar disk,” officials at the Space Weather Prediction Center, a joint service of NOAA and the National Weather Service, wrote in an update.

The sun is now in the midst of an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24 the 24th solar cycle since 1755, when recording of solar sunspot activity began. Though this current solar cycle, began on January 8, 2008 there was minimal activity through early 2009.

NASA predicts that solar cycle 24 will peak in early or mid 2013 with about 59 sunspots. But the International Space Environment Service predicts the cycle to peak at 90 sunspots in May 2013

Extreme Heat – Watches, warnings and advisories

M6.1 Solar Flare of July 5, 2012 – The image is shown in the 304 Angstrom wavelength, which is typically colorized in red. (Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA)

Yesterday July 5, 2012 a solar flare was registered as M6.1. The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured the above image of the sun when the flare peaked at 7:44 AM EDT. The M6.1 eruption of yesterday is a little over half the size of the weakest X-class flare, NASA officials said.

Currently we live in Ellicott City, Maryland. Last Friday (June 29), the high temperature of 103°F at BWI Marshall Airport would have set a record on any other June day. The record for June 29 in Baltimore was 105°F. That day, we experienced a sudden storm that surprised almost everyone in Maryland.

This storm that devastated much of Maryland on Friday, is known as a “derecho” and its impact was among the most severe and widespread. Storm reports show wind gusts neared 70 mph.

Derechos are widespread storms in which multiple bands of strong storms packing damaging winds move hundreds of miles. According to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, their name comes from the Spanish word for “direct” or “straight ahead”, the way the storms typically move.

The heavy winds, typically upward of 60 mph, come from downbursts in storm clouds, caused by differences in the heat and density of air within the storm systems.

The death of an elderly Baltimore County man was reported to state officials today (Friday), the 12th death in Maryland from a massive storm that struck July 29 and extreme heat that has lingered since. The man brings to nine the number of heat-related deaths in the state. Another three people died in the storm. No additional details on the heat deaths were available.

This prevailing hot weather is expected to last for the next three days, including potentially deadly heat and more severe storms.

Today, in the wake of the X-class solar flares occurring on July 4 and on July 5, the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning at about 2 p.m, cautioning of heat indices around 110°F in Central Maryland on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 104°F Saturday in Baltimore, and heat indices could reach 110°F to 115°F.

Each National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office (WFO) can issue the following heat-related products as conditions warrant:

Excessive Heat Outlook: when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3 to 7 days. An outlook is used to indicate that a heat event may develop. It is intended to provide information to those who need considerable lead time to prepare for the event, such as public utilities, emergency management and public health officials.

Excessive Heat Watch: when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 12 to 48 hours. A watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased, but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so those who need to set their plans in motion can do so, such as established individual city excessive heat event mitigation plans.

Excessive Heat Warning/Advisory: when an excessive heat event is expected in the next 36 hours. These products are issued when an excessive heat event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence. The warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property. An advisory is for less serious conditions that cause significant discomfort or inconvenience and, if caution is not taken, could lead to a threat to life and/or property.

So, we will have to postpone our normal weekend yard work and other outdoor activities.

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This renaissance is just a fairy tale


English: Internationally recognized symbol. De... Nuclear power plant symbol Fukushima *

Reproduced from 

Author: Nityanand Jayaraman

June 15, 2012

The unpredictable financial implications of constructing, running, decommissioning plants and handling risks are causing a global rethink on nuclear energy

For a professed proponent of liberalisation and free trade, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s penchant for a technology that cannot float without subsidies is telling. Nuclear power’s unfavourable economics are not lost on Dr. Singh.

Recently, Westinghouse Electric and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to negotiate the setting up of AP1000 reactors in Gujarat, ending a slump in interest from the Toshiba subsidiary in India’s nuclear market. For Toshiba’s Westinghouse and other nuclear equipment suppliers, the Civil Nuclear Liability Act’s clause on supplier liability was the key hurdle to investing in India. The companies wanted the Indian government to insulate them from the financial fallouts of any potential disaster caused by their technology by spreading that liability among taxpayers. The recent MoU suggests some progress in moving towards this goal.

More obstacles remain, though. Nuclear projects are un-bankable. The government may deploy mental health specialists to deal with the fears of Kudankulam protestors. But those shrinks are unlikely to be able to allay the fears of financiers or nuclear equipment suppliers.

According to nuclear energy expert Peter Bradford, “The most implacable enemy of nuclear power in the past 30 years has been the risk not to public health but to investors’ wallets. No nuclear power project has ever bid successfully in a competitive energy market anywhere in the world.” Mr. Bradford was member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and chair of the New York and Maine electricity regulatory commissions. He teaches a course on nuclear power at the Vermont Law School.

Second thoughts

Unpredictable financial implications associated with constructing, running, decommissioning plants and handling nuclear risks are causing a rethink on nuclear energy worldwide. But these developments seem to slip by India without so much as causing a ripple.

Germany and Switzerland have decided to phase out nuclear power, despite their substantial dependence on it. Israel abandoned its year-old civilian nuclear programme after Fukushima. Belgium revived a pre-Fukushima decision to phase out nuclear power, using the Japanese disaster as a reminder. Italy and Kuwait gave up their nuclear debut by abandoning plans for 10 and four plants respectively. Mexico dropped plans for constructing 10 plants. All of Japan’s 54 reactors are now closed, and plans for 14 new reactors killed.

The story of nuclear energy’s unviability is told not just by the actions of naysayers, but also by the experiences of those — like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Vietnam and South Africa — pursuing nuclear programmes. All of them want the nuclear option, but have no idea how they will finance it.

If the U.S. is Dr. Singh’s inspiration, then the so-called nuclear renaissance’s trajectory in that country gives even more cause for despair. In 2009, the U.S. declared a nuclear revival with promises of more than 30 new reactors. Today, most of these projects are doomed. Even candidates for federal loan guarantees such as the South Texas project, and the Calvert Cliffs-3 project in Maryland, have been mothballed.

State governments in the U.S. do not seem to share the Federal Government‘s enthusiasm for nukes. Bills to reverse moratoria on nuclear plants in Minnesota, Kentucky and Wisconsin failed last year. In Missouri, North Carolina and Iowa, legislators defeated bills to charge electricity consumers in advance to finance reactors.

“At the time of Fukushima, only four countries — China, Russia, India and South Korea — were building more than two reactors. In these four nations, citizens pay for the new reactors the government chooses to build through direct subsidies or energy price hikes,” Bradford notes.

Finland was among the few that reiterated its commitment to nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. The 1,600 MW Olkiluoto nuclear plant uses French company Areva‘s technology. Areva’s modular design was expected to make it faster and cheaper to build. But 11 years later, the project is behind schedule and its $4.2 billion budget is up now by 50 per cent. After Fukushima, Areva admits that the same plant would cost $8 billion. Even Areva’s home project, in Flamanville, France, has suffered a $4 billion cost overrun and a four year delay. Indeed, 31 out of 45 reactors that were being constructed globally around 2009 were either delayed or did not have official dates for commissioning, says a report for the German Government by consultant Mycle Schneider.

In India

In Kalpakkam, meanwhile, the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor was slotted to contribute to the grid in March 2012. In 2005, Baldev Raj, Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, boasted that the 500 MW unit will be completed in 2010, 18 months before schedule. Till date, there is no sign of this happening. The Kudankulam plant, which is now 23 years old since conception, lost only eight months due to protestors.

In Jaitapur too, the government has more to worry about than local protestors. Areva, the technology supplier, is in trouble. Last year, it announced losses of €1.6 billion, and the sacking of 1,200 workers in Germany. Last June, it decided to suspend production at a Virginia reactor component plant due to declining market prospects. Its expansion plans in France, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. may never materialise. Areva expected to sell 50 nuclear reactors this decade. It has not received a single order since 2007.

Now, with a socialist president at the helm in France, Areva’s future looks even more uncertain. French President François Hollande had promised voters a reduction in nuclear dependence from 75 to 50 per cent, and shutdown of an aging reactor in Fessenheim. Whether or not he carries through with these promises, it appears certain that no new plants will be built or planned during his term. Both conservative-led Germany and socialist France will make up the shortfall from the nuclear phase-out, by investing in renewables for electricity and new jobs. In replacing nuclear with renewables, these nations are declaring that despite its carbon dividend, nuclear is too risky — financially, politically and environmentally — to pursue.

(Nityanand Jayaraman is an independent writer and volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Kudankulam Struggle.)

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Solar-powered catamaran goes around the world in 584 days.


tvaraj:

“Each new sunrise provides the catamaran with the light needed to continue its journey,” the PlanetSolar team wrote on its website.

It took the 115-foot boat 584 days — roughly 19 month — to make it all around the world. That is admittedly not a super-fast pace.

But there were stops along the way to promote solar power and even an encounter with pirates. There was also some waiting for the sun to come up to power those lithium batteries.

 

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Originally posted on kracktivist:

    Solar-powered catamaranThe solar-powered MS Turanor PlanetSolar crosses the finish line of its trip around the world at the Hercule Harbor in Monaco. (Laurent Gillieron / Associated Press / May 4, 2012)
    By Deborah NetburnMay 4, 2012.
     In the spring of 2004 Raphael Domjan, a Swisselectrical engineer, conceived of a borderline insane idea — to travel around the world aboard a ship powered entirely by solar energy.

    It would be an adventure and a statement. If he could do it, he would prove to the world that there are other alternatives to powering sea travel besides fossil fuels and wind. It would also demonstrate just what solar power is capable of.

    In 2008 he formed a partnership with German entrepreneur Immo Stroeher, who helped provide the funds to make this idea possible.

    And now, eight years later, Domjan’s dream is a reality: On Friday, the solar-powered MS Turanor PlanetSolar catamaran pulled into…

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