Archive | Hydroelectric

Uzbekistan Concerned that Hydroelectric Power will Disrupt Agriculture

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, Sept. 24 (UPI) — Uzbekistan is concerned that proposed hydroelectric projects in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will disrupt its agriculture.

Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, External Service, Wednesday quoted Uzbek Ministry of Emergency Situations Vladimir Zafarov as saying that if the planned hydroelectric facilities are constructed with no regard for the agricultural needs of downstream states, if the water level on these dams rose above its usual highest mark in wintertime it would cause flooding and massive losses to agricultural fields and residential areas in towns and villages in the downstream states of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

At issue is the glacial runoff of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, the longest in Central Asia, which originate in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

During the Soviet era water discharges were regulated by authorities in Moscow, but since 1991 the five Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have been unable to achieve a binding regional agreement on the equitable distribution of the rivers’ flow.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Hydroelectric, Other, Regional0 Comments

Africa is Failing to Exploit its Hydropower Potential

WINDHOEK, Namibia, Sept. 23 (UPI) — Participants at the 21st African Hydro Symposium in Windhoek, Namibia, were told that Africa is failing to exploit its hydro-power potential.

PANA news agency reported Wednesday that Tanzania Electric Supply Company senior manager Lewanga Tesha, during an interview, stated that most, if not all, African countries had been unable to exploit hydro-power potentials, resulting in only 10 percent of Africa’s hydroelectric potential being utilized.

Tesha said: “We have not been able to exploit that potential (hydro). Developing hydro power projects is capital intensive and African governments have not been able to raise that capital and in the end we are left behind,” before adding that African governments should take the initiative in developing their own projects rather than waiting for donor financing.

The continent’s untapped potential is massive — energy analysts say that the southern African region, if properly developed, could generate around 330,000 megawatts from its hydro reserves.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Hydroelectric, Other0 Comments

Ethiopia Embraces Renewable Energy Projects

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Sept. 23 (UPI) — The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation has signed contracts with three Chinese companies for renewable energy projects.

The agreement will underwrite the building of the Genale Dawa-3 and Chemoga yeda hydroelectric cascades and the Mesobo Harena and Adama wind projects.

The Ethiopian News Agency reported Tuesday that EEPCo concluded a $408 million agreement with China Gezhouba Group Company for building the 254 megawatt Genale Dawa 3 hydroelectric facility in southern Ethiopia. CGGC representative, chief engineer Wang Chenli, said construction of the dam will take four years to complete.

A second EEPCo $555 million contract with Sinohydro Corporation provides for the construction of Chemoga Yeda hydroelectric facility in northwestern Ethiopia and includes construction of dams on five rivers.

EEPCo also signed a preliminary agreement with HYDROCHINA Company for construction of two 51 megawatt wind power projects in Adama and Mesobo Harena. The EXIM Bank of China is providing financing for the projects.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Hydroelectric, Other, Wind0 Comments

Iraq's Water Crisis Gets Worse Daily

BAGHDAD, Sept. 23 (UPI) — Iraq’s water crisis is getting worse by the day, adding to the political uncertainty sweeping the country ahead of potentially incendiary parliamentary elections in January.

On top of the cutbacks in the water flow of the life-giving Tigris and Euphrates rivers by Turkey, Iraq’s parched south is now threatened by encroaching tidal waters from the Gulf that are poisoning vital farmland, the result of climate change.

On Sept. 19, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that Ankara had agreed to increase the Euphrates flow to between 450 and 500 cubic meters per second until Oct. 20, after which Baghdad would have to negotiate a new deal.

But it will take much more than that to help the Iraqis, who are suffering one of the country’s worst droughts in living memory.

Apart from the land around the two great rivers that rise in Turkey’s Anatolia region, Iraq is largely desert. These days, its arable land is steadily drying up. Poor rains have damaged farmland even further.

Crop yields are so bad that a country once so fertile and known in antiquity as Mesopotamia – “the land between the rivers” – is now one of the largest importers of wheat in the world.

There is deepening distrust of Ankara in Iraq. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says that Turkey has twice reneged on promises to increase the flow rate of the Euphrates, which also runs through Syria, Iraq’s northwestern neighbor.

Baghdad believes that the Syrians too are reducing the Euphrates flow. Damascus denies that, but since Maliki accused Syria of harboring the masterminds of devastating suicide bombings in the capital in August, Baghdad is not likely to get much support from Syria on the water issue.

Turkey has drastically reduced the flow of the two rivers since 2002 because of its ambitious plan to build 22 dams and hydroelectric power plants to develop its impoverished southeast.

Ankara declared in August that it had no water to spare in its reservoirs

So it was something of a surprise when Ankara made a bid to mediate between Baghdad and Damascus in late August as part of Turkey’s assertive new foreign policy aimed at establishing itself as a regional leader.

So far, the Turks have made no discernible progress on resolving the political dispute between Syria and Iraq, and the worsening water crisis is raising hackles even further.

The crisis has been worsened by Iranian dam-building to the east, cutting the flow of rivers such as the Karoun, which flows into the Shattt al-Arab, the waterway formed by the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris at Qurna in southern Iraq.

Water has historically been a cause of friction in the largely arid Middle East and there have been concerns that conflict could erupt between Turkey and its riparian neighbors to the south.

This has not happened, even though Turkey and Syria went to the brink of war in 1998 over Syria’s harboring of Kurdish separatist leaders.

But Mustafa Kibargolu, of the Department of International Relations at Ankara’s Bilkent University, cautioned in a recent analysis: “The fact that any confrontation or high tension stemming from the unsatisfied demands of parties over the use of water has not been seen yet in the region should not mislead observers into thinking that this is unlikely.

“Unless some old policies are purged and new ones introduced, it remains a real possibility.”

The catastrophe that seems to be overtaking southern Iraq is likely to increase Baghdad’s ire as the water crisis continues to grow.

Sea water from the northern Gulf is steadily moving up the Shatt al-Arab, where salination has been kept in check by the fresh water flowing downstream from the Euphrates and the Tigris.

Earlier this month, 2,000 people from fishing villages along the lower reaches of the Shatt abandoned their homes. In August, 3,000 moved out.

Iraq’s dams are at about 10 percent capacity these days and hydroelectric power stations have seriously reduced output as turbines stalled because of low water volumes.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Hydroelectric, Other, People, Policies & Solutions, Regional, Tidal0 Comments

7 Quick Tips for a Greener, Less Expensive Home

7 Quick Tips for a Greener, Less Expensive Home

When the economy is challenged, rallying support for a good and charitable cause becomes difficult. While the world looks to recover from difficult economic times, we all find ourselves being more cautious with how we spend our money.

No matter the state of the economy though, our planet continues to feel the impacts of climate change, global warming and poor energy consumption practices.

And, while saving the planet may seem secondary to saving money – we’re here to show you that keeping a greener home is not only good for the environment, but it’s good for your wallet, too.

1.) Change Five Lightbulbs in Your Home
Replacing conventional light bulbs in your home is a very simple thing to do, right? If every home in America replaced five conventional bulbs with ENERGY STAR bulbs, we could prevent the greenhouse gas equivalent to the emissions from more than 9 million automobiles.

2.) Using ENERGY STAR Products
Buying new things isn’t a great way to save money. When it comes time to replace something though, be sure to weigh all of your options including products that bear the ENERGY STAR logo. From computer monitors and dishwashers to light bulbs and windows – ENERGY STAR represents an opportunity for you to conserve energy, reduce greenhouse gasses and air pollution.

3.) Heat and Cool Your Home Wisely
Modern thermostats with programmable schedules allow most home owners to have a comfortable home that conserves fuel and energy use. If you think you’re paying too much to heat and cool your home, be sure to look into these options and have your equipment serviced regularly. Replacing filters and choosing the right equipment like high effeciency models that are properly sized and installed will go a long way for you. Quick fact… ENERGY STAR reports that the average American household can save more than $180 per year by switching to a programmable unit.

4.) Insulating Your Home
Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation to your home is a great do-it-yourself project for most homeowners. Since most homes have the worst leaks in the attic or basement, installing insulation tends to be easy because of the accesability of both places. Other areas where its common to find faulty insulation are around door and window frames, or alongheating ducts.

5.) Using Green Power Sources

Electricity doesn’t have to be carried to your home frmo large corporations over wires and poles. Many renewable sources for electricity such as solar and wind power are affordable and offered as alternatives to conventional energy. Or, if you’re motivated – you can take advantage of renewable energy incentives in your state or country and install solar panels, windmills or hydroelectric producers on your own property. In some cases, if you produce an excess of energy – you can even sell your unused power back to the electric companies!

6.) Taking Care of Your Yard and Property
While buzzing around in a riding lawn mower may seem fun, it’s not only expensive – it’s bad for the environment – and your waist line! Push mowers without motors may require a little more effort, but the rewards are plenty. In addition to getting some excercise, you can maintain your yard without hurting the envinroment at all. If you’re forced to use a traditional lawn mower though, look into one that has mulching function to reduce grass clippings. These clippings can either be left in the lawn to help rejuvinate the soil with nutrients, or, you can use it to compost yard and food waste on your property – which goes a long way in keeping our landfills clean and planet greener.

7.) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We’ve all heard it before, but “reduce, reuse, and recycle” is an excellent lifestyle to practice. Think twice before you throw garbage away… Can that bottle, can, jar or bag be recycled?  Do you need to keep home electronics plugged in when they’re not in use? What about all that water you use… could you be more frugal with it? For many – the answer is yes, but that’s nothing to feel guilty about. If you actively think about reducing your conumption, reusing materials and recycling goods to be used again – you’re not only heling the environment, but also helping to keep costs lower for any number of ammenities in life.

Do you have a tip that you think would make for a great article here on EcoWorld? Be sure to comment below and let our editors know! Please spread the word, too to help make our planet a greener place to live!

Posted in Air Pollution, Consumption, Electricity, Electronics, Energy, Hydroelectric, Landfills, Other, Recycling, Solar, Wind0 Comments

The Elusive Yet Abundant Hydropower in the Kyrgyz Republic

Can Soviet-era modes of energy resource cooperation survive between newly independent states?

It’s been awhile since the Kyrgyz Republic, along with Tajikistan and other Central Asian nations split off from the USSR and became sovereign nations. But in terms of managing their energy resources, Kyrgyzstan faces challenges that outwit nations with far more experience with political independence, and how they best address them highlights issues of globalization and free-trade that are universal.

When the lights go out in Bishkek, as they do frequently these days, more than a few of these citizens wish for the good old days of the Soviet Union, as they valiantly beat back the cold and the dark with lumps of coal and candles. Kyrgyzstan has hydropower, lots of it, but when this upstream nation needs electricity the most, in the shortened days of frozen winter, their downstream neighbor Uzbekistan needs the water released downstream the least. Water they need for agriculture during the summer they view as squandered as it floods their barren fields in the winter after passing through hydroelectric turbines upstream.

Back in the days of Soviet central economic planning, the solution was simple – extra fuel was shipped to Kyrgyzstan in the winter to feed their power plants, and the water stayed behind the dam to be released in the summer. Now that these nations are all independent entities, however, agreements that used to be quantified in cubic meters of water and kilowatt-hours of electricity are appended by the market value of these commodities, and as these values fluctuate, these legacy agreements leave one side, than the other, feeling like they have missed an opportunity.

The value of oil on the world market, however, means very little to someone trying to keep warm in Bishkek, where electricity selling for what we might consider the paltry sum of 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour ($.015 US) is for them an exorbitant amount – so much that many citizens have been forced into debt just to pay their utility bills. Even if none of the other challenges of nation building were present – overcoming nationalistic and tribal rivalries, eliminating corruption and establishing democracy, the inevitably uneven pace at which any planned economy transitions to a free market economy guarantees social problems. From Kyrgyzstan to Washington DC, the appropriate degree of government intervention to smooth the disruptions of the market is unknown. What is certain is that neither extreme is desirable, and every nation and culture will fitfully find their own unique balance.

Bishkek Power Plant
Bishkek’s electricity generating plant can be seen in
the background – frequently starved for fuel.

Every year when the winter knocks the door at former Soviet Republics particularly Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan…

Many political pledges, populist programs, negotiations, concessions, and decrees are made to facilitate the easy access to energy needs at least for survival. The political equations among the Central Asian countries oscillate awkwardly on the use of common rivers water that produces major requirement for electricity and irrigation. Claimed to having the largest hydropower potential in the region, the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan) is facing the challenge of an energy quagmire.

Power fluctuations have caused major discontent in Kyrgyzstan, which has been embroiled in political and economic instability in recent years. The citizens of the landlocked Kyrgyzstan are going through yet another difficult winter and electricity generation is so low that the government has been unable to honor a pledge to end power cuts. The politics over energy demand and supply inside the Kyrgyzstan is ticking to explode at anytime as civil unrest.

According to government sources the exceptionally cold winter of 2007 forced them to produce more electricity than planned from the major Toktogul reservoir. Toktogul Hydro Power Station has a concrete gravity dam with height of 215 meters and water reservoir with a total volume of 19.5 km3 (cubic kilometers – a cubic kilometer or km3 is equivalent to, and frequently also expressed as “bcm” or billion cubic meters). The water inflow in the reservoir made 7.44 km3 till October 2008, which is 1.8 km3 less as compared to the last year at the same time. The water outflow reached 4.3 km3, 1.5 km3 less than in 2007. Once the volume of water in the Toktogul reservoir decreased even further in May 2008 to 6.8 km3, which was difficult to produce electricity. By overexploitation, the depletion of the Toktogul reservoir, which on 01 April 2008 amounted to only 7.2 km3, some 5 km3 lower than average (2002-2007).The water in reservoir is already low since 2007. The water inflows into Toktogul in 2007 summer were 1.7 km3 less than the average of the previous 15 years. The 2008 winter forced the government to exploit more water to produce electricity. So in the mentioned figure, the government highlighted that so far the situation is not normal for the winter of December-2008 to March 2009. For this reason the Kyrgyz government wants to conserve water in the reservoir by scheduled cutting electricity. So it was not primarily the 0.3 km3 net drop which necessitated the flow reduction, but to manage the low level of water in the reservoir and to produce more electricity required for this ongoing winter.

The Ministry of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources responsible for supplying electricity and heat informed the public that due to inadequate water supplies in the Toktogul Reservoir, there would be daily power cuts everywhere. School days are shortened or closed. A senior citizen of Bishkek, Rufat Aliev says,

“Even during World War-II, schools were never shortened or closed down.”

Although citizens reprieved from daily blackouts in the extreme cold for few days, the blackouts resume again on November 15 in rural areas and Bishkek countryside. Kyrgyz electricity company Severelectro has already restarted electricity blackouts in Bishkek in late 2008 and planning to continue in 2009. (See Table-1 of black out- schedule). Meanwhile, the President sacked the energy minister Saparbek Balkibekov when the minister apprehended the looming energy crisis in Feb, 2009!


Electricity generation in 2008 totalled 8.8 billion kilowatt hours, when in 2007 it was 10.5 billion. Due to the shortage of electricity generation, the prices of the electricity have been increasing gradually. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov announced the government’s plans to increase prices for electricity by 13 percent and water by 20 percent in April 2008.

According to the electricity, heating and hot water tariffs raising plan, the prices may increase by 25-30% starting from April – May 2009. But, right now the price is 62 Tyiyn per KW (1 Som= 100 Tyiyns, in mid-January 2008 the Kyrgyz Som would exchange for about .025 US dollars, ref. Kyrgyz/USD exchange rate) is much above the normal price. So far, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade estimated that the electricity blackouts cost Kyrgyzstan about 60 billion Soms or 6 percent out of GDP growth.

The new Minister of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources, Ilias Davydov, said to the Parliament in mid-December that

“heating and electricity tariffs are not expected to rise since January 1, 2009.”

However, many people who live in condominiums, have already constructed small stoves in their apartments and buying coal, and/or mazut (heavy, low quality fuel oil) in order to heat their homes, in case the central heating system fails to provide the required heat. Although people are receiving heat from the central heating system in Bishkek, people are expecting a high increase in tariff in anytime in end of January 2009. During the summer, the Bishkek residents were angry and frustrated by the fluctuation of power supply. Nicholas Lukyanovich Kravtsov, a former Soviet energy specialist now heads the public association on protection of the rights of consumers ‘Yustin’ in Bishkek says,

“The government has created this myth of load shedding on the decline of water level in the reservoir including other myths of non-profitability of the energy sector, high prices for electricity and privatisation.”

Bishkek Power Plant
On another night without electricity, candlelight is seen
dimly through the windows of this apartment building.

The Complex Water and Energy
Nexus in Central Asia

In this situation, it is necessary to delve into policies and mechanisms for management of key resources – water and energy resources. According to the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, the countries of the region day by day would be involved in tough negotiations for water and energy. However, one-sided utilization of water resources of rivers for power generation entails problems in water supplies for people living in lower reaches, primarily for the irrigation purposes.

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are located in the high mountains of Pamir and Tyan Shan, whose many glaciers supply the water which is the main energy resource in these countries. Hydropower provides over 90% of their energy supply. In the former Soviet region, after Russia, Tajikistan has the second highest water resource potential (530 billion kWh/year) followed by the Kyrgyzstan (142 billion kWh/year). However, most of the experts and government agencies are of the view that Kyrgyzstan exploits less than 9% of its hydroelectric potential. The annual hydropower potential of the smaller rivers is between 5 and 8 billion kWh, but only 3 percent has been utilised so far. Its rich water resources consist of 50 cubic kilometers of surface runoff a year, 13 km3 of potential ground water resources, 1,745 km3 of lake water, and 650 km3 of glaciers. The region’s largest rivers (the Naryn, 807 km; Chu, 380 km, Talas, 200 km, Saryjaz, Kara Darya, Chatkal, and others that belong to the Syr Darya and Amu Darya basins) find their headwaters in Kyrgyzstan.

There are 20 major power plants with a total installed capacity of 3,680 MW in the country. Although there is conflicting information about the total number of large hydropower and combined heat and power plants (CHP) in the Republic, it’s commonly accepted that 2,950 MW comes from 18 hydro power plants and approximately 725 MW comes from two heat and power plants.

(Source: Ministry of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources, Kyrgyz Republic)


According to the National Energy Program (NEP) of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2006-2010 and the Strategy of the Fuel and Energy Complex until 2025 (NEP), there will be addition of 3,960 MW from several hydropower stations by 2025 (See Table-4). However, this ambitious program needs sufficient investment. The NEP also envisages to commission 1200 MW Kavak state district heating power station by 2015. During the same period, the NEP will add to the hydropower generation from small hydropower amounting 178 MW.


Although power production is growing from 13.3 billion kWh in 1990 to 14.5 billion kWh in 2006, the citizens are deprived of electricity. The share of hydropower stations in power production increased from 67 to 94 percent, while the share of heat and power plants decreased drastically from 32 to 6 percent in 2006. In country’s fuel energy mix, hydropower takes 81 percent; heat and power plants 17 percent and small hydropower stations around 1.3 percent.

Most of the existing hydropower plants were constructed in Soviet times entirely along a single river – the Naryn River. Before 1991, Toktogul Reservoir was operated in ‘irrigation mode’, with large summer releases to satisfy irrigation demands in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and low winter releases. Surplus hydropower in summer produced by the Naryn Cascade was transmitted to the downstream Republics. During the winter, the Kyrgyz Republic received sufficient fuel to operate its combined heat and power plants. After 1991, fuel deliveries have not fully satisfied Kyrgyzstan’s needs. Therefore, the Kyrgyz Republic increased releases from the Toktogul Reservoir during winter. As a result, the reservoir operation has shifted to ‘power mode’ with large winter releases and lower summer releases. However, to address growing problems in the first half of the 1990′s, the Basin States entered into annual agreements on water allocation energy exchanges in an attempt to re-establish the pre-1991 operating regime. The 1998 Framework Agreement on the joint use of water and energy resources in the Syr Darya Basin between the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan places these agreements on a more formal footing. However, the implementation of the yearly basis negotiated outcome of the 1998 agreement is always questionable.

According to one of the senior Kyrgyz government representative,

“It was the balance system to make countries equal. But after collapse of the USSR, upper riparian countries had to buy fossil fuel from downstream countries in market price, while latter used water free of charge. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan cannot understand that Kyrgyzstan needs money to maintain all these reservoirs to provide with irrigation water”.

Chui River
Without successful barter for alternative fuel, hydropower
in winter comes at the cost of downstream summer irrigation.

The Barter system: Water vs Natural Gas

In the latest negotiation with Uzbekistan in Tashkent, the Kyrgyz Minister of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources Ilias Davydov concluded the imported natural gas price at $250 per 1000 cubic meters. Although the minister explained that the price is quite acceptable, when Uzbekistan sells gas to Russia at $326 per 1000 m3, last year the price was very low at $145. Earlier, both the government has an intergovernmental agreement, where it says that Uzbekistan promises to deliver Kyrgyzstan gas, while Kyrgyzstan give 600 cubic meters of water and 600 million kW/h of electricity. The Kyrgyz government agreed on these conditions, in order to keep the Bishkek heat and power plant operational. Kyrgyzstan intended to negotiate with Uzbek authorities into leaving the gas price unchanged – $145 per 1000m3. In 2007/2008 the Uzbek gas cost Kyrgyzstan $145 per 1,000m3.

The Uzbek government has been accusing Kyrgyzstan not to abide by the water-energy deal that has historically governed water allocations between the two nations. Even per the agreed arrangement, however, the Uzbeks complain about being unable to attain their goals for irrigation needs in summer as well as over unwanted flooding in winter. The Uzbek government’s intention, ideally, is to make beneficial use of the water of the Naryn River and the Toktogul reservoir not only for the Kyrgyz Republic, but for the national economies of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan as well. This is one of the most political and complicated issues between these neighbouring countries. There have been many instances of the downstream Uzbeks accusing the upstream Kyrgyz of not abiding the 1998 agreement which always renewed annually as per the parties request. For example, when Kyrgyz officials released more water for producing electricity during the Winter of 2008, most of the Uzbek’s arable land flooded. When the Uzbeks needed more water in the following summer for irrigation, the reservoir had less water. There were hardly any official remarks on this.

Similarly, the Kyrgyz government inked a deal with Kazakhstan to import of 250 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to Kyrgyzstan in September 2008. However, the head of the parliament committee on fuel-energy sector Yury Danilov suspected that the price of Kazakh electricity will make 3-4 soms per 1,000 kilowatt hours.

Chui River
A shuttered and vacant school in Bishkek. Until heat and
electricity becomes more reliable, students cannot learn.

The Role of Multilateral Development Banks

Major donor agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) consider the present energy situation in Bishkek is continue to be a concern. The ADB is believed to be agreed to allocate $20 million for black oil, coal and gas purchasing for the Bishkek heating plant in the first quarter of 2009. The World Bank immediately sanctioned an emergency assistant to rehabilitate the Bishkek Heating Plant.

The ADB has a strategy called Central Asia Economic Cooperation under which a project named CASAREM (Central Asia/South Asia Regional Electricity Market) has been implemented for allowing energy export to Afghanistan and Pakistan as a market for the Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s energy. Maya Eralieva, Central Asia and Caucasus Coordinator of NGO Forum on ADB, says,

“The MDBs [Multilateral Development Banks] especially the ADB has been cajoling the Kyrgyz government to export energy to far Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the situation at home is very grim, why the ADB is suggesting to exporting energy to outside the national border.”

Like the ADB, the World Bank is also planning for an export market for the Kyrgyz hydro power with emphasising privatisation of the energy sector in Bishkek. The privatisation of Kyrgyzenergo (the State electric agency) has been stalled at the parliamentary level since 1997, when sell-offs of large monopolies were suspended following allegations of price rigging and corruption. However, during this present emergency situation many international agencies like USAID have been re-opening the public debate on privatization. According to the senior human rights activist, Natalia Ablova of the Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law, privatization would be a very dangerous experiment at least for the Kyrgyzstan as there is non-transparency, no legal system to protect consumer rights, and no judicial control over private companies.

The Elusive Yet Abundant Hydropower in the Kyrgyz Republic

It’s interesting to note that the national Flag of Kyrgyz Republic carries the glowing sun, but the country is pressed with increasing energy shortages. In the flag there is the tunduk positioned in the center of the glowing sun. This image of the tunduk, which translates as rooftop, refers to the top of the boz-youi – the traditional house of nomadic Kyrgyz people. So far, this scenic and beautiful landlocked country is looking for ways and means to harness the full potential of its hydropower. To pacify the anger of citizens of Bishkek, the Minister of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources Ilias Davydov said that the government will consider writing off of citizens’ debts in early 2009. However, Mr. Guljan Ibraeva, citizen of Bishkek says,

“Joint effort can resolve all the energy crisis, lack of water resources, food crisis in this region. We have to put all our efforts together and back to Soviet time designed system which is suitable and more sustainable.”

This winter may decide the future of Kyrgyzstan’s energy sector and its bilateral relation with the neighbouring countries on water and energy. The Country must pay attention to hydro-energy diplomacy seriously.

Avilash Roul

About the author: Avilash Roul, who recently completed his doctoral research on international environmental negotiations, particularly in the area of water security, has been writing, advocating, researching, and publishing on issues of the Environment and Development in various English Daily media since 2000. Earlier, he worked with Down To Earth (fortnightly magazine published in New Delhi, India). He also contributed regularly on Sundays for a column in New India Express on environment and development. More recently, Mr. Roul worked as an Assistant South Asia Regional Coordinator for the Bank Information Center (, that advocates for the protection of rights, participation, transparency, and public accountability in the governance and operations of the World Bank and regional development banks. He has served on advisory boards for many research institutions and community based organizations. He is core advisor on energy and environment for the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict (, a New Delhi based think tank. Presently, he strategically supports many community groups and CSOs across Asia to build their capacity for research and analysis, project investigation, and strengthening community participation in Asian Development Bank (ADB) projects, programs and policies while working with the Manila based NGO Forum on ADB ( He contributes his free time on researching and empowering and building capacity of various communities on environmental risk management, climate change, forest, mining, water and wildlife issues.

EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Energy & Fuels, Hydroelectric, Natural Gas, Organizations, Other, Policies & Solutions, Regional0 Comments

Severn Barrage's Eight Gigawatts

If you want to imagine the Western Hemisphere’s equivalent to China’s Three Gorges Dam, look no further than the proposed Severn Barrage, which at peak output will deliver over 8 gigawatts of electricity, or about 50% of what the Three Gorges delivers. Even though the Three Gorges output decisively exceeds that of the Severn Barrage, if this massive civil engineering project is ever completed, it will dwarf every other power station in the world.

Environmental groups bitterly oppose the Severn Barrage, and if they are to strive for consistency, they certainly should oppose this monstrosity. The ten mile long dam will connect the English coast to the Welsh coast across the Severn Estuary, one of the largest, most precious, environmentally sensitive estuaries on Earth. Why on earth would any environmentalist support this project, or any tidal energy project, for that matter? The problem, of course, is we have to pick our poison – energy production, like food production – in a world destined to accomodate 8-9 billion people who aspire to live in peace and prosperity, is doomed to be dependent on commercial scale operations that are disruptive and potentially dangerous. Pick your poison. Nuclear? Hydroelectric? Fossil fuels?

The Severn Estuary and the
proposed barrage crossings.

The problem with tidal power certainly isn’t the scale – unlike wind turbines, which would have to be installed by the millions to make a dent in global power production, the Severn Barrage is a big deal. But to suggest the 8.6 gigawatt output is “equivalent to eight nuclear power plants” (presumably at 1.0 gigawatt each) is misleading.

Like other intermittant sources of energy such as wind and solar, and unlike nuclear power that operates continuously, tidal energy plants only operate at low tide, which is when the seawater sequestered behind the barrage during high tide can drain through the hydroelectric turbines. Like wind and solar, tidal energy has a “yield,” which in the case of the Severn Barrage is not quite 25%. In terms of actual average output, the Severn Barrage is only estimated to deliver 2.0 gigawatts of electricity, and at this point no serious discussion seems to be forthcoming as to how a fluctuation in grid input of 8.6 gigawatts is going to be offset. If there are designs that can smooth this massive energy flow, how much do they cost?

And what about the financial cost? At an average of 2.0 gigawatts of continuous power, the Severn Barrage will deliver about 17.5 terawatt-hours per year. Rounding up slightly from current estimates (because these projects never come in on budget), the entire project will cost about L 17.0 billion, or about $30 billion. Ouch! That equates to $15 billion per gigawatt-output, an amount that absolutely does not compare favorably to alternatives, including wind – installed, taking into account yields, probably half this amount or less – and certainly not natural gas, which can now be installed at about $1.0 billion per gigawatt output.

At $15+ billion per gigawatt (over $15.0 million per megawatt) installed, the Severn Barrage is a civil engineering boondoggle, being popularized based on global warming alarm and desire for energy security. While energy security is a compelling concern, it should be addressed in ways that reflect fiscal reality. A tidal energy system that costs $15 billion per gigawatt is not a financially competitive investment, even when compared to other alternative energy options. Try marine current turbines, which operate underwater on the ocean floor, or offshore wind – almost anything will cost less than the Severn Barrage, and almost anything would be less of a blight.

The location of the Severn Estuary
in the southeast of the U.K.

While we don’t dismiss global warming concerns, only remain committed to publishing credible material from the skeptic community (read our Climate section), one must consider this: It is virtually impossible to eliminate CO2 emissions to the levels the alarmist scenarios declare we must to avoid catastrophe.

It isn’t going to happen, no matter how many precious estuaries environmentalist policies destroy, or rainforests that environmentalist policies burn to grow subsidized “carbon neutral” biofuel. Global warming alarm is being used quite effectively as a trump card in almost every policy debate imaginable, but by the alarmists own logic, it is an utterly futile exercise.

Environmentalists should hope whatever climate changes we’re experiencing are from natural cycles, and return their focus to things that they can influence – the world’s estuaries and rivers, forests and floodplains, wilderness and wildlife; protecting precious natural beauty and eliminating genuine pollution.

Related Links:
Severn Barrage (Wikipedia)
Severn barrage will be costly ecological disaster (

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Engineering, Hydroelectric, Natural Gas, Other, Policies & Solutions, Solar, Tidal, Wind6 Comments

General Compression

What if a wind turbine didn’t have a gearbox and electric generator in the nacelle, but instead a highly efficient air pump that sent compressed air down a pipe and into a storage network? That is the vision of General Compression, a privately held Massachussetts company that raised $8.1 million from 70 investors in April 2007.

When you consider the likelyhood of implementing utility scale electricity storage, the primary need would arise if wind power begins to take on a significant share of total electricity generating. When weather changes across an entire region that has huge wind generating capacity, it is possible several gigawatts of power can suddenly surge onto the grid. Currently this is handled quite effectively by grid management systems shutting down fossil fuel generating plants or deactivating hydroelectric turbines – so the need for massive storage solutions may be overstated. Denmark, for example, gets 30% of their electricity from wind turbines, but don’t have massive electricity storage systems. And as electric cars begin to proliferate in huge numbers, they will have smart systems that purchase electricity precisely when the wind is surging, when they can charge at a lower cost per kilowatt-hour.

Nonetheless, General Compression’s “Dispatchable Wind Power System” (DWPS) is a unique approach to buffering and storing wind energy. The conventional plan to use air storage for wind turbines is to have wind generators allocate surplus electricity to powering pumps to store air – the turbine itself is a generator. General Compression has an air pump in the wind turbine from the start, and any electricity that comes from their DWPS starts out as compressed air.

The complete scheme General Compression has come up with is rather elaborate. Each wind generator sends compressed air into a network of pipes, which then go to centralized pressure vessels, potentially augmented by using underground geologic features such as empty salt caverns or vacant hard rock mines. This compressed air is then used as grid demand requires to create mechanical or electrical energy.

According to General Compression’s website, they have “identified numerous locations around the world with outstanding wind resources but lacking local power demand and/or transmission capacity.” They believe with their DWPS system they can create not only wind power installations with the ability to store and deliver electric power onto the grid, but also create large scale off-grid industrial complexes.

The question probably comes back to cost and efficiency of the DWPS system compared to traditional wind generators. How much would all these pipes cost that transfer the pressurized air from the wind turbines to the centralized storage units and generating system? Is a General Compression’s decentralized pumping system and a centralized storage and generating system cheaper and more efficient than the conventional design consisting of decentralized generating systems and centralized pumping and storage? And will compressed air storage really be that necessary in the grid of the future?

Time will tell. General Compression expects to have operating prototypes by 2010, with commercial scale installations by 2012.

Posted in Cars, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Hydroelectric, Wind1 Comment

Utility Electricity Storage

While we appear tantalizingly close to having all-electric and extended range electric vehicles (EREVs) on the road very, very soon, thanks to advances in lithium ion batteries, how close are we to having utility scale electrical storage? Since the storage capacity of EV batteries range from 10+ kWh (for EREVs) to 50+ kWh for all electric EVs, clearly there is significant opportunities for EV owners to use their cars as micro-utilities, buying power during off-peak and selling power during peak. In aggregate, along with providing utility scale electrical storage, EVs may eventually eliminate peaks – charging and discharging intelligently and autonomously to smooth demand through daily and weekly cycles – saving their owners money and absorbing all the sudden wind energy the weather has to offer.

A helpful place to get up to speed on utility scale electricity storage is from the website of the Northern California based Electricity Storage Association (ESA) – they have a good survey of electrical storage technologies that deliver solutions at the 1.0+ megawatt-hour scale. From their data and elsewhere, here are some of the technologies that look particularly interesting:

“Pumped storage,” has been used for decades, and consists of two water reservoirs, a lower one and an upper one. When there is excess power on the grid, water is pumped up to the upper reservoir, and when there is demand on the grid, this water is released through hydroelectric turbines to provide electricity. This process is 70-85 percent efficient, meaning that up to 85% of the electricity that is harvested and stored through pumping water uphill can be recovered when the water is later released down through the turbine generators. Probably the most conventional and proven technology for large scale electricity storage, ESA estimates over 90 gigawatts of charge/discharge capacity are in place worldwide. The biggest problem with pumped storage is there are a shortage of useful sites for this technology to work. Ref. ESA’s “Technologies: Pumped Hydro Storage”.

Another very interesting technology is compressed air energy storage (CAES), which has been getting kicked around for years. On a large scale, this technology has been proposed to be used in tandem with a natural gas turbine, greatly improving the efficiency by eliminating the need to compress the air feeding the turbine. According to ESA’s “Technologies: CAES” webpage, the first commercial CAES facility was a 290 MW unit built in Hundorf, Germany in 1978. The second commercial CAES was a 110 MW unit built in McIntosh, Alabama in 1991. But there doesn’t appear to be anything built on a large scale since then.

The third technology that is quite interesting is the “flow battery.” As Wikipedia’s Flow Batteries definition puts it, “A flow battery is a form of rechargable battery in which electrolyte containing one or more dissolved electroactive species flows through a power cell / reactor that converts chemical energy to electricity. Additional electrolyte is stored externally, generally in tanks, and is usually pumped through the cell (or cells) of the reactor, although gravity feed systems are also known. Flow batteries can be rapidly “recharged” by replacing the electrolyte liquid (in a similar way to refilling fuel tanks for internal combustion engines) while simultaneously recovering the spent material for re-energization.”

According to ESA, there are three flow battery technologies, the Polysulfide Bromide Flow Battery, the Vanadium Redox Flow Battery, and the Zinc Bromine Flow Battery. All three of these flow battery technologies are in various stages of development. The apparent leader in Vanadium Redox Flow batteries is VRB Power Systems Technology located in British Colombia. One of their projects (ref. Tapbury / Sorne Hill), a 12 megawatt storage system to buffer a wind farm in Donegal, Ireland. Two leaders in Zinc Bromine Flow technology are Massachusetts based Premium Power, and ZBB Energy Corporation located in Wisconsin. Both of these companies have modular units that deliver up to 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity storage, and are designed to last for decades.

Whether or not our electrical grid shifts to requiring literally gigawatt-hours of electricity storage depends on four interrelated strategic variables that impact all green technology – political, scientific/climate, economic, and technological. For example, the decision to deploy potentially far more expensive electricity storage units on the grid in order to save solar energy harvested during the solar peak to deliver electricity during the demand peak may be a political one, since constructing additional natural gas fired peaking plants would also help meet peak demand for electricity.

Can electricity storage solutions become so inexpensive they can compete with conventional buffering technologies such as quick start natural gas power plants? Probably not. How far electricity storage goes as an industry will depend not just on how storage technology develops, but also to what extent the political decision is made to eliminate dependance on fossil fuel altogether.

Posted in Cars, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Hydroelectric, Natural Gas, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Wind3 Comments

Nevada Solar One

Although it’s been operating since June 2007, today Acciona dedicated their 64 megawatt solar thermal plant in Boulder City, Nevada. According to the Chairman of Acciona, José Manuel Entrecanales, the plant cost $260 million and will operate for several decades. The plant is rated to produce 64 megawatts in full sun and is expected to produce about 130,000 megawatt-hours per year.

A parabolic trough at Nevada Solar One.
(Photo: Acciona)

While there have been solar thermal plants installed in recent years, particularly in Spain where Acciona has their headquarters, this is the first utility-scale solar thermal plant built in the USA since 1991.

It is interesting to compare this plant to some of the others being proposed. Ausra, for example, expects to generate 177 megawatts on a 640 acre installation – using their modified solar trough technology. Nevada Solar One occupies 400 acres.

This means Ausra claims their plant footprint will require 3.62 acres per megawatt output, whereas Acciona’s plant footprint requires 6.25 acres per megawatt – nearly twice as much. The comparison is misleading, however, since Acciona’s plant has a much greater ratio of balance-of-plant to solar field compared with Ausra’s. Also, of course, Ausra’s plant is still on the drawing boards, and until power is being generated to the grid, it isn’t fair to compare a design to a reality.

Another way to look at the footprint of solar electricity is to compare solar thermal to photovoltaic – and in this comparison, photovoltaic displays far more than the 2 to 1 range of efficiencies we’re possibly seeing with solar thermal. Thin film photovoltaics, which display efficiencies as low as 5%, require 4.6 acres per megawatt. Top-end crystalline photovoltaics, on the other hand, are available off the shelf at efficiencies of over 20%, which means they would require only 1.2 acres per megawatt.

If one assumes Californians draw about 30 gigawatt-years of electricity per year (and that’s on the low side if we start charging millions of electric cars every night, read “Gigawatt-hours per electric commuters”), then here’s how much land in California’s southern deserts would have to be given over to solar installations:

Solar thermal – best case: 731 square miles.
Solar thermal – conservative case: 1,278 square miles.
Photovoltaic – thin film low efficiency: 939 square miles.
Photovoltaic – crystalline high efficiency: 235 square miles.

If this sounds like a lot of square miles, it isn’t. California’s area is 158,000 square miles. Put another way, since California has 36 million inhabitants, 1,000 square miles, or 640,000 acres, equate to only 774 square feet per person. Much of California’s solar future will be via rooftop installations, which on a per capital basis almost certainly exceeds 774 feet per person.

Not addressed here are the storage issues facing solar power, and all intermittant power. It is no coincidence Nevada Solar One is located in Boulder City, in the shadow of Hoover Dam. If and when solar thermal power scales up into the multiple gigawatt output range, load balancing as the sunlight fades can be accomodated simply by reactivating one more turbine in the powerhouse. As a supplement to hydroelectric power, solar thermal even without storage solutions is very interesting, because the solar field can provide power during the day, allowing the hydroelectric turbines to remain idle until night-time. This can literally double the annual power-output capacity of deep water reservoirs, since the supply of water is often the primary constraint on their output.

Posted in Cars, Electricity, Energy & Fuels, Hydroelectric, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar9 Comments

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