Solar Power isn't Feasible!

Solar Power isn't Feasible!
This cartoon was on the cover of the book "SolarGas" by David Hoye. It echoes the Sharp Solar slogan "Last time I checked nobody owned the sun!"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Survey of Renewable Energy systems along the Khumbu Trail en route from Lukla to Mount Everest PART 12


 In Pangboche we see an electric panel with skull and crossbones on it saying that more microhydro is coming.  We arrive in Dingboche in a foggy drizzle that turns into rain.  Our first morning is cloudy with patches of blue sky and stabs of sunlight.  Haven't taken a shower in the last couple of nights, short showers cost about 300 Rp each and it is cold enough that one doesn't really want to disrobe to pour hot water over one only to get cold again drying off and getting dressed. The toilet has normally been outside, but this time they are in our rooms -- they are squat toilets with a bucket of very cold water and a plastic cup. No toilet paper. I sleeep in until 8:30 the first morning to recover from the climbing. There are yaks in the courtyard blocking the stairs. One has only one horn.  I am now cautious about Yaks since one attacked me the day previous.

(My notes say "On the trail I get blocked by a yak. He is standing on the stone stairs, blinking his eyes.  I call him blinky and ask politely if he will move so I can pass. Suddenly he rushes at me and tries to gore me. He hits my hand with his sharp horn and I move my arm in pain and his horn rams into my chest, all quite suddenly. As I am knocked backward downhill the goring doesn't penetrate my skin, but it leaves a red mark on my hand and chest.  Close call. The previous day a Yak bumped into by the bridge and knocked me on my butt, but that was accidental. This is a deliberate Yak attack!")

I drink seabuckthorn juice at night and in the morning.  It reminds me of plam fruit  juice in Cairo. It isn't delicious, but one gets used to its acidic warm taste, high in vitamin C, very healthy. Still can't figure out why it is called "SEA buckthorn juice so far from any sea!). Today is May 10th 2011, Tuesday.

Dingboche Renewable Energy Systems

GPS waypoint #36:  Shomare, Ground Mount PV in garden; 2 100 Watt monocrystalline panels, 2 75 W Monocrystalline panels, 1 40 W thin film on Sonam Lodge Restaurant.    

1 70 W polycrystalline on back on store below Pasang Lodge. Pasang lodge has 1 70 W polycrystalline, 1 10 W, 1 5 W, 1 40 Watt Monocrystalline, 1 30 Watt Thin Film.

Shomare Rest Stop has a solar cooker which I use for my first cup of solar ginger tea on trip at 4040 meters altitude. They have a greenhouse for shrub junipers and they have 4 PV panels (2 15 W, 2 more 30 watt and a 15 W, facing two directions, 222 degrees SouthWest.

Juneli Lodge has 2 solar cookers and two PV panels.

There is another 70 W PV panel above the Nagarkot Fast Food.  

There are 5 panels (two 15 W, two 10 W, 1 70  W, facing all directions) on the shack across from Nagarkat.


#37 Tashi Delek Lodge:  1 70 Watt Monocrystalline

#38 Himalayan Tea Shop has 1 5 W panel

#39  Dingboche Solar Cookers -- 4 cookers, 2 PV panels (1 30 W, 1 70 W). 

There appears to be hybrid wood Stove heating in Snow Lion Lodge on Right with a solar cooker and 2 PV panels.

#40 DGHL; 2 70 Watt PV panels

#41  3 PV panels, 70 W each, on left side

#42  Moonlight lodge has 4 PV panels, 1 100 W, 2 40 W and 1 30 W.

#43 Welcome, Slate Roof, has 2 100 W PV.

#44 Khumbu Resort has 1 Solar Cooker, 5 PV panels (2 70 W, 2 40 W, 1 15 W, think film and monocrystalline and polycrystalline) Owner is "Chering", uses maintenance free lead batteries, self installed system. He also has a lodge near Everest Base Camp). 

There is a pungent smell of smoke in the air, acrid smoke pouring from the Alpine Resort.  Could be from yak dung furnace.

#47 House on Hore Shop: 1 70 W PV

#48  Sherpa Internet Cafe, 4400 Meters. 2 100 W PV panels, monocrystalline.

#49 Himalaya Lodge has 4 14W panels, 1 100 W and 4 25 W panels.

owner says, "Panorama Lodge in Pheriche has a man named Pembe who is the solar and electronics expert who does the training of the local people."

#50 Namaste Lodge Grocery Shop, Dingboche. Has 3 panels (80 W, 40 W, 25 W).

#51 Sonam Friendship Lodge (where we stayed).  Has 8 PV panels and 4 different battery banks.  The lodge is 100 % PV powered.  My room, like the others, has LED lights (one in the room and one in the toilet).  Also uses Yak dung for air heating in the restaurant.  Solar Charging cell phones or computers at the Friendship lodge, like in many places, is 300 Rp (about 3 Euro) per hour.  Across the street they charge with a gasoline generator which runs all day and disturbs and annoys us.  Thankfully Sonam's Friendship Lodge is powered completely by friendly solar energy.  Occassionally Sonam will prop a 100 watt panel on an oil drum outside the dining room window and put it through the orange Chinese inverter he has to charge another sealed battery. Nobody knows what the Chinese inverter says, but they've figured out the basics of using it.


Each of the three internet cafes in Dingboche is solar powered but they have 2 stroke generator backup in case the batteries drain low and there is no sun.

Two of the solar internet owners are Karma and Ming Ma. Ming Ma owns the internet cafe near the KACC and up on the hill. Nima is in charge of the KACC.

Field note:  A british trekker staying at the Friendship Lodge gets severe altitude sickness with a cough bringing up a brownish red fluid, suggestive of pulmonary edema. They put him in a Red vinyl "PAC" or "Portable Altitude Chamber" that shows a 'simulated descent graph'. The man in the Pac is then ready for evac, and is brought to Naamche on Sonam's horse. We learn from his wife that he improves when he gets to lower altitude.

Silly notes:  At most of the lodges a "cheeseburger" is a bit like a "veggie burger" -- it is just cheese in a bun.  If you want a hamburger with cheese you have to say so.

Nepalise for "we are lucky" is "Hagi Bagaimani Cho". 

There has been tremendous loss of topsoil in Dingboche due to the destruction of soil-binding juniper shrub and cushion plant for cooking and heating fuel.  The average is 60 tons/hectare of soil loss in Dingboche versus 7 tons/hectare in a degraded Iowa cornfield (A. Byers, personal communication). According to the visitors center near Naamche:

"Much of the alpine juniper has been lost since 1962" (the year I was born incidentally!) "Soil binding juniper shrub (SBJS) -- there has been a serious reduction in the amount of SBJS in teh alpine slopes greater than 4000 meters in altitude. Comparative photographs from 1962 to 1995 (many followed up on and taken by Dr. Alton Byers)  confirm this.  Erosion rates are 40 times greater in terms of monsoon than in forests and shrub/grassland ecotypes in lower regions.  From 1970 to 1995 tourism had a tremendous negative impact; soil binding juniper shrub was used by lodge owners and Yak herders (Byers, 2001).  The unsustainable harvest of Arenaria cushion plants above 4,500 meters for lodge heating fuel has also degraded this ecosystem.  Juniper takes 100 years to grow 4 cm.

A sign in the visitors center says, "The organization and effort required to reach the summit (of Everest) is perhaps similar to that of outer space exploration... in the 1980's climbers are increasingly spending more of their life at high altitudes to maintain all year round fitness." (Outside the visitors center we met members of the British Army and Gurkas based in Brunei who were on "Exercise Tiger Mountain Yeti" and they did "star jumps" (jumping jacks) in sight of Mt. Everest with us as part of the National Geographic Kids world record.) We see lots of Cotoneaster plasts with little leaves and Jentian's with blue flowers.


When setting up the two Chinook 200 Watt 12 V wind generators for the KACC we find that the spacing between the tips of the three blades needs to be 85 cm.

Sonam informs us that a composting toilet, traditional Nepalese style, made of stone, elevated, costs 70,000 to 80,000 Rp (700 to 800 Euro).

#45 Tashi Lodge, 4343 meters, has 1 solar cooker, 1 70 W panel. Next to the Khumbu Alpine Conservation Center. 

#46 Mamas Bakery and Cafe. "Well furnished Hot and Cold Shower".  Has 4 PV panels (1 100 W, 2 70 W, 1 25 W).

# 52 Imza Valley, on the Right Side has 3 PV panels; 2 75 W 1 50 W.

#53 Hotel Sherpaland has 3 PV panels; 2 75 W, 1 50 W also.

#54  On hill, above big rock and slate roof on left of trail up on hill there is 1 10 W panel on steel roof and 1 20 W panel on slate roof.

#55 Valley View Lodge, up on hill has 4 100 W PV panels

#56 Mountain Paradise lodge has 1 75 W panel on left roof, 3 50 W panels on right roof and a 200 W monocrystaline panel on the right roof. Picture 1486

#57 Hotel Arizona has 2 Solar Cookers (from Solar  Technical Works), 2 200 W PV panels on stone house, pictures 1493/1495 and 1489 to 1491.

#58 Himalayan  Snooker has 1 Polycrystaline 40W panel, picture 1492

#59 Hotel Bright Star International,  Dingboche Internet Cafe, has Satellite dish, Internet in Tent owned by Karma Sherpa.  Has 4 100 W Monocrystaline panels, 2 200 W monocrystalline panels, 1 180 W Polycrystaline panle and on the back house 1 15 W Monocrystaline panel.

#60 Sherpa Internet Cafe at Peak 38 View Lodge (GPS point labeled SherpIntPeak) has 4 200 W Monocrystaline Panels. Owned by Ming Ma.

The Pheriche Himalyan Lodge uses green polypropylene pipes.

Notes: "Today, after setting up our 400 Watt 24 volt system at the KACC yesterday, we charged the electric drill we brought from Katmandu.  We will try to finish drilling the wind tower holes (6.4mm bit, 18 mm down the pipe for fixing the wind turbine). We got half drilled through the schedule 40 pipe yesterday, but it was cloudy and the batteries weren't fully charged. Today is clear and sunny, the 13th of May, Friday.  I had a bad headache yesterday all day... from altitude sickness -- had to drink lots of fluids last night; feel it coming on this morning.  Low pressure apparently affects cells; it isn't just the lack of oxygen. It is a "decompression" sickness of a sort.  I feel like I am chasing the headache with fluids.

Must add up all the PV estimates to figure out about how much installed capacity there is.

Question: To deal with all the beverage can waste that is polluting the region. Can we make batteries from aluminium cans? Or use strips of aluminium and some other metal in plastic bottles? (Answer from June 11 -- yes. Check youtube.)


Sonam carefully unpacks and cleans his old analog multimeter and we test his batteries and inverter. Then I spend lunch figuring out ways to wire the wind turbine stop switch.

Hotel Family Land has 1 100 W polycrystaline panel and 1 15 W.

At the KACC we meet Gp Capt. Prashant Joshi (, from the Nepalese Army, wearing a red jacket, climbing to summit of Everest with friend. Son is in grad school. Asks if I would do school presentations on renewable energy.

Sonam Hishi Sherpa has a picture on the wall of his restaurant of himself with Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter at the Khumbu Lodge in Naamche Bazaar from 23 October 1985.  A certificate next to it says "Sonam Hishi Sherpa enrolled as a member in the National Geographic Society, Jan 1, 1989".

Sonam tells us, "the old traditional system here is that no fire is allowed for one and a half months in Dingboche.  From July 4 to Sept. 1st. When they harvest you can come back and make fires.  In spring we close the boundary lines and animals must move up.  Autumn, harvest time, is hay cutting time.  In Kolfartse we plant buckwheat seed; it is green, one or two black. They cut hay. Then after a week cut below the warshaw area. After a week of hay cutting we can make fire. In the middle of September trekking begins.  Our family we can trace back 24 generations -- the first five in Tibet, the last 19 in Dingboche.


 Night of 15th May at Yeti Lodge in Gorakshep after Summiting Kalapathar to record the two solar panels there on GPS (for weather stations).  The Indian air force group with Captain Prashant Joshi is there , on retreat from the lower  summit camps to acclimatize before attempting the summit.  They say it can take 6 to 9 weeks to finally summit, and they keep pushing higher, then trekking all the way back to lower altitudes to build up more red blood cells, sometimes as far down as Dingboche. One woman on the Indian team says she is getting quite bored of the process. Everyone has a type of "bronchitis" that they call the "Khumbu cough".  They say, "just watch, you will get the cough too." I started to get it that night, but mildly. It was a sleepness night because of everybody coughing so hard and so loud, as though it was an infirmary.  There was also the sound of the coughing people tramping to the bathroom. The bathroom, another hole in the ground with only a bucket of freezing water to use to clean one's self, had no light and I had no flashlight because we had made the spontaneous decision from the ridge above the Italian solar pyramid to trek on to Everest base camp (since we could see it from the ridge and it looked so invitingly close).  I also had no sleeping bag; I slept in my clothes with my sweater, with my contacts in for the second night (had left saline behind).  I used two blankets with a warm Nalgene watter bottle against my chest.  Woke at 6:00, my eyes very foggy for the second day -- was it the contacts or a kind of altitude blindness coming on? The lights had rings around them.  We left Yeti lodge at 6:30 am after porridge and we arrived at Everest Base Camp at 8:30 a.m.  We stayed at Everest Base Camp until 10:20, taking GPS points and photographs of solar panels for our survey (and doing jumping jacks for the contest).  We arrived back at the Yeti Lodge in Gorakshep at 12:00 noon. 

Water cost 250 Rp per liter.

On the way back, just after leaving base camp, I found a half liter empty coke bottle, like a sign from "the God's Must Be Crazy". Normally I would hate to find trash on the trail, but I was happy this time because I needed something to collect bacteria sediments from the glacial lakes and didn't know what I was going to do.  It was as though the gods intervened and put a coke bottle in my path. So I took it to one of the bubbling lakes that we had videotaped earlier and GPS'd it and filled the bottle with sediment from under the ice and with the glacial water and screwed on the cap.  There were bubbles evolving from the sediments in the bottle for the first few hours and when we were at the Yeti Lodge we met a French couple in the oil and gas industry (working for Technip, installing pipelines for offshore platforms)  who were travelling for a year and were volunteering for the Himalayan Light Foundation installing solar panels in a village 3 days walk from Lukla. I showed them the bottle of suspected psychrophilic bacteria and they noted the small effervescent bubbles inside (probably coming out because of the rise in temperature as i'd been carrying the bottle against my body).

We left Yeti lodge at 1 PM,  taking the lowland stream wash path, arrived at the entrance to the Pyramid road at 2:30 and Arrived at Lobuche at 2:45 PM.  We left Lobuche at 3:15, with JB carrying a three stringed guitar he had borrowed for us, arrived at 4:00 at the Graves and at 4:30 at Thukla.

Interview with Sagarmartha about Micro Hydro in the region:

"35 to 40 years ago 2 Kathmandu companies started making metal turbines for hydro power.  This was to provide not electricity but shaft power for agro-processing machines.  They were turbine mills coupled to shafts.  We decided to add generators to the existing shafts and that was our first hydroelectricity. Many of the grain grinding hydro system were adapted to make electricity. Then came full electrification.

"70 KW Tok Tok Microhydro became the norm, but we started with 200 Watt micro hydro systems for a household  and worked up to 5 KW for a cluster of houses; Now the norm is the 70 KW Tok Tok.  We use a Pelton Wheel Set, Ballast, an Induction Generator and a Vertical Shaft."

"We also had solar electricity early on. Government subsidies provided 50 to 60 % of the costs and it was made easy because the salesperson provided the discount and did all the paperwork for the rebates.  Household size systems were promoted -- 30 to 36 Watts was enough for lighting and radio.  More than 50,000 household systems were installed. When we say "household system" we are talking about a couple of panels (two 15 watt panels or 3 10 watt panels or one 30 watt panel) along with a 40 amp hour battery and 4 bulbs.  Nowadays the subsidy has gone down to 25% because there is so much penetration."


Exodus donated and installed 29 Solar Cookers in the region between 2008 and 2009; They cost 30,000 Rp each and were subsidized; the owner only had to pay 5000 Rp.

The Himalayan Rescue Association has a 5 KW three blade wind turbine mounted on a 20 meter pole with guy wires.






No comments: