On Friday, former Congress president and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi shared a video of PM Modi speaking about wind energy and claimed the PM 'didn't understand'.
Likening him to the Emperor with no clothes, Gandhi wrote: “The real danger to India isn’t that our PM doesn’t understand. It’s the fact that nobody around him has the guts to tell him.”
PM Modi was speaking to Henrik Andersen, President and CEO of Vestas.
He had written: “Had an insightful interaction with Mr. Henrik Andersen, President and CEO, Vestas. We discussed a series of issues relating to the wind energy sector. Highlighted some of India’s efforts to harness renewable energy in order to build a cleaner future for the coming generations.”
Andersen had replied to PM Modi’s question asking him to come to Denmark and said: “If you have come visit me in Denmark, you can be the idea research for our research development. I can't say how pleased I am with your ideas.”
Now PM Modi asked two specific things based on wind turbines – whether it could be used to create clean drinking water, particularly in coast areas.
He also wondered if the same turbine could be used to manufacture oxygen.
He then asked if all three – clean drinking water, oxygen supply and energy – could be manufactured from one windmill turbine.
Question 1) Can one generate clean drinking water from wind turbines?
Now there’s no doubt that a turbine can produce clean drinking water. In 2012, Eole Water had designed a prototype which could be used to produce 62 litres of water an hour.
It worked in the same way electricity was generated from wind turbines.
The next stage would see air sucked in which is directed towards a cooling compressor situated through propellers, which extracts humidity form the air, creates moisture which is then condensed and collected.
It is later transferred through stainless pipes and could create 1000 litres of water a day.
However, the major objection at that time was the cost which in 2012 was around 500,000 Euros.
Conclusion: Clean drinking water can be created from wind turbines, but the only issue is the cost factor. There’s no doubt that one type of turbine could take care of both power and water needs.
Question 2) Can one generate oxygen from a wind turbine?
Technically speaking, it’s possible to extract oxygen from air through fractional distillation. There are several processes including fractional distillation, cryogenic distillation processes and others where it’s possible to extract oxygen from the air through fractional distillation.
Fractional distillation is the separate of a mixture into its component parts which usually done by heating it to a certain temperature.
Fractional distillation of air, which consists of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen can be done by ‘fractional distillation of liquid air’.
Air is filtered and cooled until it reaches -200°C. When air liquefies, water vapour condenses and is removed with filters. Carbon dioxide freezes at -79°C, oxygen at - 183°C and nitrogen at -196°C. The liquid air and nitrogen are then separated.
Air separation can also be done by cryogenic distillation process.
The second method is the way astronauts breathe in space. Astronauts bring oxygen from earth and then make oxygen by running electricity through water, in a process called electrolysis.
In fact, the International Space Station’s water recycling system produces drinking water from waste and other discarded liquids including urine.
Astronauts use electrolysis to spilt oxygen from water and maintain the oxygen supply on the International Space Station. The leftover hydrogen is then mixed with carbon dioxide to produce water and methane a process called the Sabatier Reaction. The methane is discarded into space while the water is drunk. It’s still not clear how oxygen can be manufactured from a said turbine. Now it’s also important to note that one can’t survive on pure oxygen.
Conclusion: While it could be done theoretically in the same turbine, but it does seem rather hard to achieve or perhaps that’s what PM Modi was asking.
This isn’t the first time one of PM Modi’s scientific statements have caused a flutter and led to derision on social media. PM Modi had once claimed Ganesha was the first instance of plastic surgery at the Indian Science Congress and that Karna was a test-tube baby.
He had been never clarified whether he was speaking from a mythological perspective or actually believed it to be a scientific feat. He was also derided when he had said that during the Balakot airstrikes a cloud cover would lead to a benefit.
An Indian Express article had backed that claim stating: “To sum up, Modi’s statement does hold strong scientific basis which can be corroborated by existing research on the subject. The X band radar is significantly attenuated by rains, clouds and fog and related climatic conditions. For lower bands, the attenuation is less significant, but in high-speed warfare, slight change in conditions can offer huge leverage.”
On the other hand, The Print had called it 100% inaccurate and called it ‘scientific misinformation coming from the highest office in land.