Archive | Hydroelectric

Brazil Approves Huge Belo Monte Dam Construction

Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, on Wednesday green-lit the initial construction phase of the Belo Monte power dam, a controversial project on a tributary of the Amazon River.

The agency gave the go-ahead for the clearing of 588 acres of forest to make way for the $17 billion hydroelectric dam, which would be the world’s third largest.

The planned 11,000-megawatt project has been met with widespread criticism from native Indians and conservationists since it was first proposed some 30 years ago.

Environmentalists claim that the Belo Monte dam would threaten the survival of indigenous peoples and could leave as many as 50,000 people homeless, as 190 square miles would be flooded. It would also partially dry up a 60-mile stretch of the Xingu River.

Norte Energia, the utility led by the state-owned Companhia Hidro Eletrica do Sao Francisco, won the bid for the project last year.

The plant would start producing electricity in 2015.

The Brazilian government says the dam is necessary to sustain the nation’s fast-growing economy.

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U.S. Bred Toads Returning to Africa

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Aug. 17 (UPI) — One hundred of the world’s rarest amphibians have been returned to their African homeland after being carefully raised at two U.S. zoos, officials said.

The Kihansi spray toads are living in a state-of-the-art propagation center in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital, after being transported from the Bronx Zoo in New York and the Toledo, Ohio, zoo, a Wildlife Conservation Society release said Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Anna Maembe said the Tanzanian government was “very grateful to the Bronx Zoo and The Toledo Zoo for taking care of these precious toads for 10 years.

“We are very optimistic that they will acclimatize soon and be taken to their homeland in Kihansi Gorge in the near future,” she said.

The Kihansi spray toad was first discovered in 1996 living in a 5-acre micro-habitat created by the spray of nearby waterfalls in the Kihansi Gorge. In 1999, the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the gorge dramatically changed the Kihansi spray toad’s habitat, lessening the mist zone in which the toads thrived.

Scientists and Tanzanian officials collected a colony of 499 Kihansi spray toads from the gorge as assurance of the species’ survival.

The toad was last seen in the wild in 2004, and in 2009 the toad was declared to be extinct in the wild by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The Toledo Zoo has 5,000 toads and the Bronx zoo has 1,500. Both zoos will continue breeding them, returning additional shipments to Tanzania as their numbers rebound.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Amphibians, Art, Conservation, Hydroelectric, Other0 Comments

South American Insects Fight U.S. Weeds

WASHINGTON, May 24 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’re using a South American insect in an effort to control an invasive weed, water hyacinth, that’s common across the United States.

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists at the department’s Agricultural Research Service said water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a free-floating aquatic plant native to South America that has infested freshwater ecosystems across the nation, but which is especially problematic in the southeastern United States.

“The plant is a real menace, affecting water traffic, water quality, infrastructure for pumping and hydroelectric operations, water use and biodiversity,” the ARS said. “Other problems include fish kills due to low oxygen levels and increases in populations of vectors of human and animal diseases.”

ARS entomologists Philip Tipping and Ted Center said the work with researchers in Buenos Aires to find and test Megamelus scutellaris — a small planthopper native to South America whose nymphs and adults feed on the sap of water hyacinth. Scientists said the insect’s population increases rapidly, which will enable it to quickly affect the water hyacinth population.

Following extensive testing, the planthopper was found to be highly host-specific and non-threatening to native or economically important species.

The insects were released last week at the Edgefield Regional Stormwater Treatment Facility near Palatka, Fla.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Biodiversity, Fish, Hydroelectric, Infrastructure, Other0 Comments

German Renewable Industry Booming

BERLIN, March 24 (UPI) — Countering Germany’s overall economic trend, the renewable energy industry boomed in 2009, supplying more than 10 percent of the country’s energy for the first time.

“We have made delightful progress,” German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said upon unveiling of the renewable data Wednesday in Berlin. “Germany is a global market leader in the field of renewable energies.”

Renewables — including biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind and solar energy — accounted for 10.1 percent of the overall energy mix, up from 9.3 percent in 2008. Renewables produced 94 billion kilowatt hours of power in 2009, a share of 16.1 percent, up from 15.2 percent in the previous year.

That puts Germany in a comfortable position when it comes to reaching its targets of boosting renewables in the energy mix and at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Renewables in 2009 avoided 109 million tons of emissions; Germany has reduced its emissions levels by 28 percent compared to 1990 levels.

Roettgen said it was “very realistic” that Germany before 2020 reaches its target of a 30 percent renewable share in the power mix and by the same year reducing its emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels.

The German renewable energy sector has benefited from a generous feed-in-tariff provided by famous renewable energy law, or EEG.

Last year, the German renewable energy industry unlocked investments worth some $23 billion, in a year when the overall economy contracted by 5 percent. The sector employs 300,500 people, that’s almost double the 2004 figure.

“The sector is growing against the trend and it remains a job and economic motor,” Roettgen said.

It’s not all positive news, however: The solar energy industry has turned into a problem child.

The feed-in tariff requires large utilities to buy up power generated by solar panels at prices several times the market value. This has led to German companies leading the global solar power market but also in an excess capacity within relatively chilly Germany: The country in 2009 accounted for more than half of global panel installations, meaning that billions of dollars in subsidies go to their owners. Despite those massive subsidies, solar accounts for less than 1 percent of the overall energy mix in Germany.

This over-funding “discourages technological advances and lowers the acceptance of renewables with the public,” Roettgen said, adding that subsidy cuts were imminent. “We don’t want to use the EEG to subsidize solar investment funds that enjoy double-digit returns.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Geothermal, Hydroelectric, Solar0 Comments

Green Power to Help Ancient Rice Terraces

MANILA, Philippines, Jan. 25 (UPI) — A group of international power companies has donated a $1 million hydroelectric project to help save legendary rice terraces in the Philippines.

Deterioration of the massive rice terraces — dubbed the “stairway to heaven” and the “eighth wonder of the world” — prompted UNESCO in 2001 to include them on its list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. They were created mostly by hand more than 2,000 years ago by the indigenous people of the northern province of Ifugao.

The hydro facility, located on the Ambangal River downstream of the terraces, will generate about 1,450 megawatts annually, providing 18 percent of the electricity needs for Ifugao.

With a development phase of four years, in collaboration with the Philippines Department of Energy and the Provincial Government of Ifugao, the facility was built and donated by Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co. on behalf of the e8, an international non-profit organization of 10 leading power utilities from G8 countries.

“It is our goal not only to pursue sustainable energy development but to raise awareness of the cultural heritage of one nation. The Ifugao Rice Terraces is a cultural site and must be protected,” e8 Executive Director Johane Meagher said in a statement Friday.

The e8 is comprised of American Electric Power and Duke Energy of the United States; Hydro-Quebec and Ontario Power Generation of Canada; Electricite de France; ENEL S.p.a. of Italy; RWE AG of Germany; JSC “RusHydro” of Russia; and Kansai Electric Power Co. Inc. and TEPCO of Japan.

The organization’s mission includes promoting sustainable energy development through electricity sector projects in developing and emerging nations as well as playing an active role in the international debate on global electricity.

The Ifugao Ambangal is expected to generate some $70,000 in annual revenue for the Rice Terrace Conservation Fund.

A 2004 study estimates it will cost $400,000 a year to stop the deterioration of the terraces. But the Ifugao project supervisor and TEPCO general manager of international exchange and cooperation, Yoshihiro Hatano, said the project “is an important first step” and hopes “this contribution by TEPCO and the e8 will inspire and bring other donors to this important cause.”

Located nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, the rice terraces cover more than 4,000 square miles of mountainside. According to folklore, the terraces would wrap around half the globe if placed end to end. They are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above.

Causes for the deterioration of the terraces include migration of farmers to cities, declining income from farming and the indiscriminate use of technology, according to the Ifugao Rice Terraces and Cultural Heritage Office.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Seattle to Increase "Garbage Power"

SEATTLE, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Seattle, which gets a small amount of electricity from its own trash, plans to increase its garbage power significantly, city officials say.

The city of 602,000 plans to outfit a second landfill to pump methane gas from refuse by 2012, adding to an existing landfill in Arlington, Ore., where Seattle’s garbage is taken by train, officials said.

The city first began getting electricity from the Arlington plant in October.

“This is part of our strategy,” City Councilman Bruce Harrell, chairman of the council’s Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “This is part of our vision.”

A network of pipes moves the methane from the tons of garbage in the Arlington landfill into a compression facility, which sends it to internal combustion engines. The engines turn generators that produce 5.7 megawatts of electricity sent up the power grid, enough to supply about 5,600 homes.

Seattle uses about 1,132 megawatts, the Seattle City Light utility averages. About 89 percent of the utility’s power comes from hydroelectric dams, 5.6 percent from nuclear energy, 3.4 percent from wind, 1.3 percent from coal and 0.5 percent from natural gas, the utility says.

The methane-extraction arrangement is part of a 20-year contract between the city and national garbage-management firm Waste Management Inc. of Houston, which built the system and charges the city about $2.5 million annually, Harrell said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Coal, Electricity, Hydroelectric, Natural Gas, Waste Management0 Comments

Brazil's Ethanol Fueled Plant on Stream

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Brazil has inaugurated its first commercial ethanol-fueled power plant amid questions being asked about the global impact of increased feedstock production on food agriculture.

The ethanol used in the plant comes from sugarcane, but other biofuels being researched for ecologically friendly attributes or all-weather use are using huge quantities of soy, sunflower and other oil seeds.

Although most of the crops used in feedstock for fuels are grown specifically for the purpose, analysts said acreage under food crops was falling internationally as entrepreneurs and governments allocated vast tracts of land to feedstock.

Brazil has announced extensive programs for producing biofuels from soy, sunflower and other oil seeds, including diesel for export that can withstand extremely cold weather.

The ethanol-fueled power plant in the state of Minas Gerais uses a flex-fuel turbine that was converted from running solely on natural gas to ethanol. The plant began its test operations Dec. 31 and currently is going through various stages of optimization, officials said.

Petrobras, the state-managed oil company, said the ethanol project gave Brazil a clear lead in the global quest for alternative, ecologically friendly sources of power generation.

Greater use of biofuels has been spurred in low-income regions, such as the Caribbean and West Africa, by cash constraints in countries that are finding high bills for crude oil and gas a major block to new development.

The ethanol-fueled turbine is part of a larger power generation complex that has other plants running on gas and oil, thermoelectric and hydroelectric sources.

Brazilian experts converted General Electric turbines for use with ethanol, Petrobras said.

The conversion involved the replacement of the combustion chamber, of one of the injector nozzles, and the installation of peripheral equipment (receipt system, tanks, pumps and filters) that allow the receipt, storage and flow of ethanol to the turbine, Petrobras said.

The company said it invested about $25 million in bringing the project to the correct stage, which will supply electricity for about 150,000 inhabitants.

Maria das Gracas Foster, head of Petrobras natural gas division, said the company had “great expectations” to demonstrate the viability and economy of generating electricity from an alternative to fossil fuels.

Industry analysts said ethanol use in power generation did reduce the carbon footprint of a plant without compromising volumes of electricity produced, but agriculture experts remain skeptical about the long-term impact of biofuels on the world’s food agriculture.

Brazil plans to produce a record 27.8 billion liters of ethanol during the 2009-2010 season, which will be a record.

Domestic demand for ethanol in Brazil has been boosted by the introduction of flex-fuel car technology. Petrobras has indicated it sees a major new business opportunity in the ethanol technology and is actively exploring international consumer markets with colder climates.

Industry scientists will be working with the Brazilian navy to test the reaction of biofuels to extreme weather conditions, including cold conditions in the Antarctic.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Electricity, Hydroelectric, Natural Gas0 Comments

U.S. Department of the Interior Plans More Grand Canyon Floods

LAS VEGAS, Dec. 12 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of the Interior is planning more floods in the Grand Canyon, officials say.

The man-made floods are an attempt to restore conditions that existed in the canyon before the Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1966, The Arizona Republic reports. The dam traps sediment formerly carried by the Colorado River, leading to the erosion of beaches in the Grand Canyon downstream.

Anne Castle, an assistant secretary in the department, told water managers this week at a meeting in Las Vegas that experiments with floods have shown they need to be frequent to do their work.

“We’ve put in place a comprehensive science program designed to figure out the complex processes at work downstream of Glen Canyon Dam,” Castle said Thursday. “We’ve learned that one of the best tools we have to benefit resources in the Grand Canyon is short-duration, high-flow releases.”

Environmental groups have been pushing for more frequent floods, while water managers and operators of hydroelectric dams say they disrupt operations.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Typhoon Ketsana Reveals Illegal Logging in Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam, Oct. 31 (UPI) — Typhoon Ketsana, which hit Vietnam in late September, revealed illegal logging when logs were swept down flooded rivers, forestry officials say.

Le Nho Nam, director of the forest protection unit in Phuoc, told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network logs from his area, one of the country’s last stands of old-growth forest, were identified 60 miles away. He said some were almost certainly from trees cut down illegally in the protected forest, IRIN reported Friday.

Phanh Tham Lam, Nam’s counterpart in Quang Nam province, said deforestation increased the devastation from typhoon flooding.

Much of the illegally cut timber goes to the furniture industry. With $2.8 billion in sales annually, it has become one of the Southeastern Asia country’s biggest export sectors.

Some forests have also been cleared for hydroelectric power plants.

About 78 percent of the old-growth forest in the country has been cut in the past 20 years.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Hydroelectric, Regional, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Plans to Tax High Electricity Use

CARACAS, Venezuela, Oct. 16 (UPI) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he would direct his administration to assess a tax for high consumption of electricity and set subsidies for low usage.

“Those who use energy above a ceiling will have to pay a surcharge. They must pay more. Those who spend less energy, under a minimum limit, will be subsidized and will pay lower rates.” El Universal quoted Chavez saying.

“There is a world energy crisis, for God’s sake, we must understand it! Some people turn on their air conditioners and let them on all night. It’s like wasting water day and night,” he said.

Chavez said a lack of rainfall to replenish the headwaters of the Caroni River had become “a serious situation that has affected the supply of electricity.”

The hydroelectric power station Guri, Venezuela, produces 70 percent of the country’s electricity.

“What I mean is that we must all be concerned … everyone has to help save energy,” he said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Consumption, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Hydroelectric0 Comments

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