Silicones against Blackouts

India’s economic power is growing faster than its infrastructure. The energy grid, in particular, can hardly keep up with the growth, as demonstrated by the huge summer 2012 blackout. Composite insulators based on silicones from WACKER are helping to ready the Indian power grid for the future.

An overhead power line in West Bengal: The power outage on Monday, July 30, 2012 brought public life in 20 of 28 Indian states to a halt, also in the state of West Bengal and its capital Kolkata.

New Delhi, July 30, 2012: subways stand idly at their stations, telephone lines are dead and traffic in the Indian capital breaks down, since the traffic lights are not working anymore. As night falls, New Delhi is in the dark – along with many other parts of the Indian subcontinent. The tropical heat becomes unbearable, as the air conditioning systems break down. Nothing works anymore. Back then, a dramatic blackout incapacitated India. The grids collapsed in the north, northeast and east of the country, in 20 out of 28 states – like a line of dominoes that topple one by one. 650 million people – over half the Indian population – were affected by this, the largest power outage in history.

“Here, companies are obliged to not consume electricity, i.e. to not produce, two days per week, for example.”

Dr. Jens Lambrecht Global Product Development manager

To experts, the blackout didn’t come as a complete surprise. The Indian power grid hasn’t been able to meet the rapidly rising demand for some time now. In the eleven years between 1999 and 2009 alone, per capita power consumption increased by around 50 percent, according to Germany Trade & Invest (the economic development agency of the Federal Republic of Germany). The Indian economic miracle regularly pushes its power supply to the limit. Conserving electricity is the order of the day. “That’s why so-called ‛power holidays’ are compulsory in many parts of India,” explains Dr. Jens Lambrecht, manager of Global Product Development at WACKER's Engineering Silicones unit. “Here, companies are obliged to not consume electricity, i.e. to not produce, two days per week, for example.” These mandatory time-outs are noticeably crippling this booming emerging economy. Furthermore, the power interruptions, which are mostly brief but numerous, are a daily endurance test for industrial production and machinery.