Electricity from Glacial Lake in Nepal

feature_image_glacier_lakes_of_nepal

It’s pretty much apparent that the world is facing global warming in the present context. In general, global warming refers to the gradual increase in the average air temperature of the Earth’s surface, causing long-term heating in the Earth’s climate.

The primary cause of global warming is anthropogenic-induced activities such as the emission of greenhouse gases in large amounts due to the burning of fossil fuels.

The glacial lake is formed at the tongue region of glaciers from accumulated water from glacier melt. During the retreating phase of the melting glacier, the glacial lakes do appear at the lower tails. Some glacial lakes possess the inlet and the outlet, while some do not.

Global warming is always not harmful; it entails a considerable opportunity. The chance in the sense that once global warming occurs, it melts the Himalayas’ glaciers into water.

Global warming has played a significant contribution since it increases the temperature of the glacier, thereby causing the ice caps to melt and convert into water.

When someone does visit the Langtang area, there comes the Langtang Lirung glacier with the pristine beauty of the Kyanjin village covered with the ice caps. Langtang Lirung glacier is situated at an altitude of 4100 m.

The first hydropower generation from the glacier lake is the Langtang Lirung glacier lake project. It harnessed the electricity after the melting of the glacier lake into water.

After three years of the massive, devastating earthquake in Nepal in 2015, the Langtang micro-hydro electricity project started its construction with a budget of $530,000.

Under the enormous support from the Hongkong-based Kadoorie Charitable Foundation, the workers took the water through fiberglass insulated penstock pipe, which got attached to the powerhouse, which resulted in the generation of 100 KW of electricity.

The target is to increase at 400 KW in the coming days through Langtang Support Project in coordination with the locals residing in the Langtang valley.

The critical purpose of using the penstock pipe insulated with the fiberglass is to prevent the water inside from freezing since the location is at high latitude. Most of the days, the village is covered with massive ice caps that are shrines in nature.

Lirung - Glacial lake
Lirung region of Langtang National Park (source)

It is regarded as the first kind of electricity generation from the glacier lakes due to Nepal’s Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOFs).

It’s a message to the globe that extensive research, investment, and dedication are always crucial for the success of electricity generation.

It seems perfect to the villagers since the electricity generation has supported and promoted the tourism industry.

Moreover, it holds a promise that it would generate such kind of electricity in the other remote Himalayan valleys as well.

The glacier lake is converted to a turbine while generating electricity initially. After that, the water level of the glacier is lowered down using several pieces of equipment and the techniques by the expert technician. Side by side, the pressure on the moraine dam is also reduced.

As we all know, Glacier Lake Outburst Flood has created a negative influence basically in the downstream valleys, thereby sweeping away all the belongings, damaging the hydropower transmission line, roadways, waterways, and many more. 

But the various lakes resulting from the Glacier Lake Outburst Flood have driven us to an excellent opportunity to generate electricity from the ice caps, which are later melted by the increase in the temperature.

Thus, the credit of this contribution mainly goes to global warming. In the absence of global warming, the ice caps in the lakes could not get melted, and the hydropower could not succeed in Nepal.

Therefore, it is crucial to know that global warming is the source of devastation and the opportunity for the villagers and the whole country.

Merits of the Glacier Lake micro-hydropower

Hydropower - glacial lake
Hydropower construction in Lirung glacier lake (source)

Since hydropower generation is one of the most significant clean and alternative energy sources, it should promote the electricity generated from the Langtang micro-hydro electricity project.

It does promote future economic production in Nepal. The plan-oriented action always seems feasible when using the locally available water resources as provided by nature to us. 

Nepal can produce electricity of 83,000 MW from hydropower, thereby covering approximately 3 % of the world’s total electricity generation.

The Langtang micro-hydroelectric project, which has the electricity from the Langtang Lirung glacier lakes, also contributed to this capacity.

Despite the small watt of electricity, it has been a blessing for the Kyanjin and Langtang village since it supported 24 hours of electricity to around 120 households and tourist lodges.

It has undoubtedly endorsed and promoted the tourism industry. The tourists may feel comfortable getting the electricity facility even in such high elevated valleys.

Furthermore, it assists massively in increasing the country’s revenue and providing job opportunities to many villagers who are rising in the Langtang valley areas.

Various water experts and scientists have revealed that upon more investment, we can strengthen the moraine dams on the glacial lakes to build the new artificial barriers up.

It ensures the lowering of the water level in the glacial lakes and effectively generates electricity. The Langtang micro-level hydroelectricity project has drafted a working model for the other glacial lakes in Nepal. The other glacier lakes, too, need lowering the water level for hydropower production.

It seemed complicated and expensive to produce electricity from the glacial lakes since they have been at high altitudes in the past years.

Due to the geographic barrier and lack of roadways, it was impossible to transport the building materials conveniently. But in recent years, due to the facility of the routes in the track of Langtang, it has been very feasible in hydropower production.

It would be a positive message for everyone that the Langtang valley has been lightened through utilizing the locally available water resources.

One might wonder how such a micro project can function well despite the remote areas. The glacier lakes are formed in the high elevation.

It’s not possible to transport the building materials by the roadway. Thus, we need to transport the materials through the helicopter, which is costly.

Moreover, there are very few human settlements. It’s very accurate to depict that the multi-projects can be launched once there is a detailed inventory of the risk reduction from the Glacier Lake Outburst Flood and its associated glacier lakes in Nepal.

There was no pilot research on the Langtang Lirung glacial lakes in the past years due to several factors, including lack of planning, insufficient technicians and human resources, investment lacking, transportation issues regarding the construction materials, and many more.

But over time, due to the roadway facilities and the broad expansion of the glacial lakes research, the dream of hydropower production from the Langtang Lirung glacial lakes has come into reality.

Most of the villagers residing in the Langtang valley seem very glad as they are sustaining their life like the cities with 24-hour facilities of the electricity in their valley.

Nepal possesses considerable electricity generation from the large rivers and lakes. But after the successful hydropower production from the Langtang Lirung glacial lakes, it is proven that even Nepal’s glacial lakes can support electricity generation at the micro-scale. 

Despite the electricity generation in the Langtang valley, it always seems crucial to identify the fundamental risk factors which might cause catastrophic events shortly.

The social, environmental, and economic factors are considered the pillars for sustainability. During the launching of any hydroelectric generation from the glacier lakes, the spatial mapping of the glacial lakes needs to be documented.

Electricity from the Ice. Copyright: Nepali Times

The environmental aspects should be considered when it comes to the planning of the hydropower generation from the glacial lakes. In 2003, authorities established the guidelines for studying hydropower projects in Nepal.

Such guidelines should be given colossal concern when one plans for electricity generation from the glacial lakes at a high altitude.

Presently, Harnessing electricity from micro-scale projects has been very familiar. It might address the issue of tackling the shortage of electricity and the load-shedding problem in Nepal.

For instance: the community scale micro-hydro power project of Langtang Storage Project, Rasuwa, is considered. With no doubt. The harnessing of the electricity from Langtang Lirung glacier lake has facilitated coping with the post-disaster repairing work.

To some extent, this micro-scale hydropower production can assist in generating the dry season power and a fruitful achievement in heading towards making the hydropower nation.

It can increase the chance of investment in hydropower generation both at the national and international levels. It attracts many companies to invest in harnessing electricity generation and fulfilling electricity demands in remote areas.

The downstream villagers become extremely glad once they use the electricity for 24-hours. Due to the climate change-induced effects, even the water of the high Himalayas is drying up day by day. The women of the villages should move along to fence the water.

In such circumstances, launching and electricity generation from the Langtang Lirung glacier lake could benefit the people who reside in the downstream valleys. It has eradicated a massive burden for women.

Under ongoing debates on the development of hydropower generation in the Himalayan region, this step can be considered a milestone in developing the infrastructure throughout Nepal.

It conveys a message that solid efforts, dedication, and the appropriate investment can solve the issues regarding the harness of electricity.

The lighting throughout the Langtang valley mesmerizes the beauty of the Langtang, where one could even imagine the valley’s majestic beauty with the glacial lake being surrounded by the large ice caps and the mountains.

Conclusion

As aforementioned, global warming has created the opportunity to harness the hydropower generation from the glacial lake known as Langtang Lirung situated in the Langtang valley of Rasuwa, Nepal.

The significant positive aspect the lake has provided is people are far away from darkening the Langtang valley and the massive promotion of the tourism sector that even assist the Langtang National Park to welcome visitors throughout the globe.

Sometimes even the micro-hydro power generation from the glacier lake can be beneficial in addressing the issues regarding the inadequate electricity to be supplied within the valleys.

Despite several challenges faced during the electricity generation from the glacial lake, it has undoubtedly ensured energy security, thereby shifting to the cleaner technologies one could follow.