A video interaction between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Henrik Andersen, head of Danish wind turbine-maker Vestas, where they discuss alternate uses of wind turbine has caused quite a stir.
In the video shared by PM Modi, he suggests the usage of wind turbines to produce not just energy but oxygen and clean drinking water too.
PM Modi’s reasoning was that the turbine would be able to “suck out moisture” from the air and condense it into water and “separate” oxygen from the air, “if there are advancements in science”.
The CEO replies saying that he is smiling at PM Modi’s passion and excitement and adds that Modi can be an “idea generator” both in India and Denmark.
Some are calling Modi’s ideas outlandish, while some are wondering if it is possible to an extent. But here’s what we know so far:
In the course of the interaction, PM Modi didn’t claim that water or oxygen could be generated from wind turbines, rather, they were suggestions.
Let’s look how practical each of the suggestions are.
1. GENERATING DRINKING WATER FROM WIND TURBINE
Can a wind turbine produce drinking water?
A 2012 report mentions that a French firm – Eole Water – had claimed to have come up with a prototype of a successfully modified the traditional wind turbine design to create the WMS1000, an appliance that can manufacture drinking water from humid air.
A prototype isn’t a finished product but a preliminary version of a model which can be further developed.
But this company has exited from the wind turbine business.
Regarding whether drinking water can be generated from a wind turbine, Amit Rambhia, managing director, Panache DigiLife Limited, a firm that deals with technology applications, told The Quint:
“If we take the words literally, then definitely it is possible but you have to understand the underlying meaning behind the whole thinking.”
"The meaning is wind turbine will generate energy and you can spend that energy into condensation which is converting atmospheric air into water. So, is it practically possible? I would say, yes, it is possible. But how much can you achieve in terms of efficiency, it all depends on the terrain that you want to put it, you will not get the same result everywhere because of the relative humidity and temperature and conditions at different locations are different. It doesn't suit for all things but on a technically possible area, it will give you good yields in different regions," he added.
Another expert from a wind turbine manufacturing facility in Chennai told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that the PM’s suggestion is “implausible” and can’t be implemented anywhere realistically. He said far more energy would be spent in extracting too little water.
2. EXTRACTING OXYGEN FROM AIR THROUGH WIND TURBINE
There are ways to separate oxygen from air through fractional distillation but there aren’t any known successful ventures of using wind turbine to extract oxygen from air.
Simply defined, fractional distillation is the separation of a mixture into its component parts. Using this process oxygen can be separated from other components in the air such as dust particles, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.
Mr Rambhia said, “Compressing oxygen from the air is a nice idea. But how do you distribute it from the wind turbine is something which is non-practical because wind turbines are located at different terrains, probably most of the wind turbines are away from the cities most of the time. In that sense, it’s slightly non-practical.”