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!"

Monday, June 6, 2011

Survey of Renewable Energy systems along the Khumbu Trail en route from Lukla to Mount Everest PART 4


# 14:  Naamche Bazaar, first lodge. Composing Toilet and Pine Cone storage. Many of the homes and lodges along the sherpa trail have these traditional composting toilets.  Unlike pit toilets, these are elevated so that the feces creates an aerobic compost pile in a cone shape under the toilet.  Inside the toilet are piles of nice smelling forest detritus (pine needles, pine cones, hay, leaves) which one scoops into the toilet hole after doing one's business. The result is that the toilets have no offensive odor or insects and, because the wastes are composting beneath and heat rises, they are actually fairly warm.

#15; Khumbu Hotel, Naamche Bazaar. Hotel has solar hot water (four systems with 30 tubes each) with 1000 liters storage capacity and for backup 2 gas geyser (on-demand heating) showers using LPG.  There are two 500 liter tanks under the roof, pressurized with heat pipes also connected to a hybrid water heating wood burning stove and an electric heater.  Pemba, the owner, explains that the Khumbu lodge started using solar hot water 10 years ago (flat plate collectors) and switched to vacuum tube SHW 6 years ago.  He uses 3 gas bottles per month for hot water and cooking, but often uses kerosene too because gas is not readily available.


The Khumbu Hotel has a solar oven, PV garden lights and a circular PV powered array with a webcam mounted above installed by the Japanese for weather monitoring.  Pemba explains, "for two years, from 2007 to 2009 there was a Japanese funded observation project with a PV powered web cam with weather (temperature, humidity) sensors.  It stopped two years ago because of the usual problem -- the batteries went dead. We tried to revive it again this year, but there was no funding from the University of Japan and man-power was also the issue. They had installed a similar system up the mountain for comparison, Quong De. It was stolen two days later and arrived in Lukla before the Japanese team got down.  Nonetheless, solar is very useful here.  Even on cloudy days, like today, my solar hot water systems get warm enough that I use very little electricity or gas -- I can get up to 18 degrees C on a cloudy day and that is good for preheating to save energy. Also, the solar electric still charges on cloudy days. In all Khumbu we have a 1900 KW peak demand but the micro-hydro is producing only 550 KW for the region. It used to be 650 KW but rusted pipes have restricted water flow.  So electricity is always a problem and we need different sources."

To book a stay in the Khumbu Hotel in Naamche and see their renewable energy systems contact Pemba  Sherpa at

Dr. Alton Byers was one of the first people to bring Solar Hot Water systems to Jomsom Ana Purna Circuit back in 1980-81.  He brought flat plate single panel system, packed in glass and straw in a crate.  The CEO made the mistake of giving the system to a lodge owner which created jealousies in the town .  Alton also worked with improved stoves, traditional Nepali stoves with form fitting holes for pots and firebrikcs.  Alton also brought the first biogas system to Gorka, a fixed dome Gobar gas system (using animal dung) in 1980 to 1982.   The idea never really caught on, but now a 35 kg cylinder of LPG costs 6000 Rp in Naamche (the cost in Kathmandu is 1200 Rp); Pemba says, "It is not easy to get flammable materials like LPG up here.  Planes won't carry it.  We have to smuggle it in sometimes on a helicopter or we use porters and mules.  Kerosene is the same situation."

Pemba says, "Biogas would now be very attractive.We are dumping food waste in a potato field now to make fertilizer since there are very few families keeping animals now.  We dump the food waste and put dried leaves on top to make compost. But biogas would be much better because it makes gas and fertilizer and the fertilizer is liquid. But until now nobody has attempted to do biogas in the high altitude regions."

Alton talks about Father Saubolle, the Jesuit Priest who was the "father of alternative energy" in the Khumbu from the 1950's to the 1980's. He was an orchid man who developed ways of using "wicking" for cooling, brought in Solar Hot Water and biogas and wrote a book on alternative energy.

Surveying the landscape in Naamche we counted more than 23 Solar Hot Water Systems on the rooftops in more than 16 locations.

  1. Hotel Everest: 1 SHW with tank on roof
  2. 3 goround mounted systems with manifolds
  3. Hotel on top of hill has 4 with tanks on dark green roof
  4. Below the top hotel are 3 SHW systems with a single separated tank on a blue roof
  5. On the lodge with the red roof are two panels with a single tank
  6. On the Khumbu hotel are 4 systems without tanks, flush mounted tubes
  7. A single stand without tubes is on a lower roof.
  8. On the green roof to the East of the Khumbu Hotel are 4 systems flushmounted without roof tanks.
  9. Up the back hill are 3 flat panel systems with a separate tank.
  10. To the East are two 100 watt PV panels.
  11. On the green roofed building on the back hotel  with a flat roof there are 5 flat panel solar hot water systems with a vertical tank on the terraced hillside above the hotel.
  12. On the Yet Mountain Home, 3440 meters there are 2 x 3 flat panels with 2 300 liter tanks,  with electric backup, the tanks are elevated by the path with a verticale cold water tank facing south.They also have
  13.  On blue roof downhill from Yeti Mountain Home there are 2 vacuum tube systems with thank.
  14. On the back hill behind the house with the dark green roof are 2 vacuum tube systems.
  15. The Himalayan Lodge has a hybrid wood burning/ water heating stove as well as gas, kerosene and electric heaters.  They got their heating stove in 1993 for Kitchen hot water with fire wood but are now saving wood for the space heating chimney because of coast.  Owner Anu Sherpa says, "I don't get the sun that the others do here.  It would be great to have a kerosene or gas stove similar to the hybrid wood burning stove, something with heat exchanger coils to heat water with the waste heat while we are cooking.  Kerosene and gas are so expensive; if some manufacturer had a way to heat water with them the way we used our wood burning stove there would be a market here.  I have looked at solar but I only get sun between 11 and 3 and the rest of the time I am in shade.  Using food waste to make biogas would be great -- I'm just giving the food waste away to people with animals because it is a problem.  I used to have a Zobkoe (a cow/yak hybrid) 10 years before, but now in Naamche there are only 5 or 6 families that have animals.  In 2002 I gave up my animals, gave them to my Uncle and then he sold them too.  So many people are giving up their animals that we have lots of left over raw vegetable waste.  People are now beginning to compost. But biogas would be really great to have. because we could still use the fertilizer it makes for our potato fields."
  16. Sherpaland Hotel has a homemade solar hot water system, a 1 square meter box next to the smokestack. It appears that they use both a hybrid wood burning/water heating stove and their home made solar hot water heater in tandem.  Yaks are feeding on garbage below , next to the Khumbu Multipurpose Coop and Community based land and forest management center.

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