Archive | Infrastructure

India's First Commercial Solar Power Plant

NEW DELHI, Dec. 16 (UPI) — India inaugurated Azure Power’s 2-megawatt photovoltaic plant in the state of Punjab, the first privately owned, utility-scale power plant on the Asian subcontinent.

Built under a 30-year power purchase agreement with the Punjab State Electricity Board, the plant will help power 4,000 rural homes for 20,000 people.

Farooq Abdullah, minister of new and renewable energy, said the plant showcases India’s pledge to generate 20,000 megawatts from solar power by 2022 under the country’s national solar mission.

Azure Power is India’s first independent power producer in solar energy. It built the plant, situated on 13 acres of farmland in the village of Awan, in a record six months,

Inderpreet Wadhwa founded Azure Power two years ago after a 15-year career in the United States that most recently included software giant Oracle Corp. The 37-year-old native of Amritsar city in Punjab said he wanted to return home and do something for rural areas in India, where millions of people don’t have reliable electricity.

Azure Power received initial venture-capital funding from Helion Ventures and Foundation Capital.

Wadhwa encountered a number of bureaucratic hurdles in the project, including obtaining signatures from 152 local officials in Punjab, The Wall Street Journal reports. And he ended up paying more than double the market rate for the land, about $420 per acre a year.

Yet Wadhwa is pressing on. His company has also inked agreements with local Indian governments of Gujarat and Harayana to build facilities that can produce a total of 22 megawatts. It is also coordinating with the state governments of Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Rajasthan for another 30 megawatts.

“My aim is to be a leading solar power generator in India by offering viable and socially responsible alternatives to conventional sources of energy,” he told the India Business Standard.

About 8 percent of India’s energy comes from renewable sources such as wind and hydropower. Solar power, experts say, has great potential because it can work almost anywhere in India.

But growth in the sector has been hampered somewhat by the high costs of the technology and inability of power companies to obtain sizeable tracts of land for the solar panels.

To encourage more investment in the solar sector, the Indian government is increasing subsidies for solar projects and mandating that state utilities purchase solar power. But some experts say government support won’t help as long as solar technology remains expensive.

“To achieve scale, you’ll need private participation, and that will only happen if the projects are viable without significant state support,” Jai Mavani, head of infrastructure and government consulting at KPMG India, told The Wall Street Journal.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Infrastructure, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Wind0 Comments

Top Natural Gas Producers Tackle Global Excess

DOHA, Qatar, Dec. 11 (UPI) — The world’s top natural gas producers meeting in the Gulf state of Qatar have agreed to strengthen their emergent organization and work together to push up tumbling prices caused by an unprecedented global gas glut.

But there’s still no sign that they will coalesce into a price-manipulating cartel with the market muscle of the 13-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that the three nations with the world’s three biggest reserves of gas — Russia, Iran and Qatar — are pushing for.

Talk of a possible major gas monopoly, dubbed a “gas OPEC,” has unnerved Europe, which gets much of its gas from Russia. The 27-member European Union imports 61 percent of its gas needs, 42 percent from Russia.

There are concerns too that a resurgent Russia, now vying with Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer, is using its oil and gas exports as leverage to reassert its dominance over the states that comprised the former Soviet bloc.

The 15-member Gas Exporting Countries Forum agreed at its Dec. 9-10 ministerial meeting in Doha, the ninth since the organization was formed in 2001, that it needs to expand strategic cooperation.

The group also elected its first secretary-general, energy executive Leonid Bokhanovsky, vice president of Russian pipeline builder OAO Stroytansgaz, further cementing its organizational structure from its informal beginnings and adding more cohesion to its decision-making process.

According to Forbes, the group of gas producers “is in many ways similar to OPEC in its early days. … OPEC members cooperated to use their market power and as a result extracted hundreds of thousands of billions of dollars of ‘cartel profits’ from consuming countries.”

“The Gas Exporting Countries Forum should function like OPEC to defend the interests of its members,” declared Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil.

He urged forum members to “reach agreement on a strategy for obtaining a fair price for gas.”

Forbes observed that “such words cause alarm, especially in European and Asian countries, many of which are highly dependent on gas imports from GECF member states.”

The Paris-based International Energy Agency warned in November of an “acute glut” of natural gas across the world in the coming years because of rising production in the United States and Canada.

Much of this is due to new technologies that allow the large-scale production of “shale gas,” an unconventional natural gas, particularly in the United States, which had been expected to become a major gas importer.

This, Forbes noted, would “turn the United States into a net exporter and thus offset a GECF-led natural gas cartel.”

Still, opinion remains divided over the likelihood that a Gas OPEC will emerge.

U.S.-based global security consultancy Stratfor said in an analysis that the prospect of a cartel being able to affect gas prices is remote because natural gas is a very different energy commodity than oil.

“Gas is not transported — or priced — like oil” and “cannot simply be poured into a container and sent to market,” it said. “It has to be shipped and distributed via multibillion-dollar dedicated pipeline infrastructures that require years to build.

“Because the infrastructure is so tightly linked to the market, natural gas prices almost exclusively are priced only within that network, not via the global market as oil is.”

Most GECF members “are wholly dependent upon foreign investment for their natural gas industries … and are very unlikely to actually take steps to hurt their customers,” Stratfor added.

“Keeping those investments flowing and those facilities operational requires partnering with customers, not plotting against them.”

Forbes sees it differently. “Despite potentially mitigating factors, the economic risk of an emerging natural gas cartel remains since market structures change rapidly and gas exporters are determined to cooperate,” it noted.

“In the early 1960s, OPEC was dismissed as an ineffective forum. But it managed to harm the world economy and extracted enormous ‘cartel profits’ at the expense of consumers only a decade later.

“Today, policymakers need to take the scenario of a natural gas cartel seriously. It could cost consumers dearly and hurt the world economy if we were unprepared.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Infrastructure, Natural Gas0 Comments

Floods Displace Thousands in El Salvador

SAN SALAVADOR, El Salvador, Nov. 18 (UPI) — More than 15,000 people in El Salvador have been displaced by recent flooding caused by heavy rainfall and Hurricane Ida, Oxfam International said.

The international organization dedicated to fighting poverty worldwide said in a release Tuesday thousands of El Salvador residents are living in shelters in the wake of Nov. 7-8 storms that caused major flooding and landslides in parts of the country.

“The scenes of floods and landslides that struck El Salvador last week reflect a storm of almost unbelievable intensity. More than 200 people are dead or missing, more than 1,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, and crops that the rural population depends on for food have been obliterated,” Carolina Castrillo, an Oxfam official based in San Salvador, said.

The widespread destruction caused by the storm prompted residents of impacted towns and villages to be relocated to emergency shelters, which now are struggling with supply shortages.

“Needs are significant across all of the affected areas with only 123 shelters accommodating more than 15,000 displaced residents. The damage is severe, and reconstruction and replacement of houses, infrastructure and crops will take a long time,” said Castrillo, the regional director for Oxfam in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Infrastructure, Regional0 Comments

Report: Clean Coal Would Add 78% to the Price of Electricity

CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 28 (UPI) — Clean coal would add 78 percent to the price of electricity, according to a report released Wednesday from the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.

The institute, established by the Australian government, includes the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan among its members.

Without policies and legislation to assign a value to carbon dioxide, the report says, the energy sector has a “limited incentive” to install carbon capture and storage facilities. What could make CCS work, it said, is the “field of dreams” or the “build it and they will come” option: governments “working in partnership with industry and the community to develop, finance and build common user transport and storage infrastructure.”

“A viable business case for commercial-scale, integrated projects has not been established at this time for coal-fired power generation and other large CO2-emitting industries,” the report states.

Government-subsidized CCS demonstration projects could “substantially” lower the costs of future CCS power stations, said the institute’s chief executive, Nick Otter.

There are 213 active or planned carbon capture projects worldwide for coal, gas and oil, the report found. But only seven projects are running now, all on gas processing plants.

Professor Richard Hillis, head of the University of Adelaide’s Australian School of Petroleum, said it is predictable that carbon capture and storage would take some time to develop and that it would be expensive at first.

”If you think of the oil industry when it first began, it didn’t develop in a matter of weeks, it took decades, and carbon capture will go through the same process,” Professor Hillis said, The Age reports.

Australia intends to spend $2.4 billion during the next nine years developing two to four commercial-scale carbon capture projects.

In a recent speech, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said it was “becoming increasingly clear that no serious response to climate change can ignore the need to accept fossil fuels as part of our shared future,” The Australian reports.

“As the world’s largest exporter of coal and a nation which derives around 80 percent of its electricity from coal, it is vital that we make technological progress on carbon capture and storage — and soon,” said Ferguson.

In 2008 coal-fired electricity accounted for 36 percent of Australia’s total emissions. Australia has surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest per capita producer of carbon emissions, according to a report last month by British-based Maplecroft, a risk consultancy firm.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Infrastructure, Other, Policies & Solutions1 Comment

Brazil Decides to Raise Biofuel Content in Diesel

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct. 26 (UPI) — Brazil has embarked on a controversial plan to raise biofuel content in its diesel production amid concerns the country’s edible oils market may face supply pressures as a result.

Biofuel that is added to diesel is usually extracted from castor beans, soybeans and other oilseeds. The risk of feedstock for the domestic oil market being diverted to the new fuel was cited by biofuel experts. President Luiz Inaco Lula da Silva urged Brazilian industry to make sure feedstock for cooking oils for consumer use did not end up in the fuel.

Biodiesel will be produced by Petrobras, the state-controlled oil and gas exploration and production company. Scientists have said adding an extra 1 percent of biofuel to the diesel content will result in a higher quality product and reduce pollution. Biofuel content in diesel is scheduled to be raised to 5 percent, effective January 2010, from 4 percent at present.

Brazil, the largest country in South America, is a major consumer of diesel because its countrywide communications infrastructure depends heavily on trucking routes instead of railroads. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of more than 4,655 miles, and current projections say energy consumption is set to rise dramatically as the economy grows.

Lula has said he is keen to reduce Brazil’s carbon footprint with energy conservation measures and greener fuel uses, but analysts say the country faces an uphill task keeping that promise.

Lula indicated the increased extraction of biofuel for diesel from agricultural produce would lead to dramatic increases in agricultural production. Agriculture industry analysts say they expect huge increases in the cultivation of castor beans, dende palm coconuts, sunflower seeds, cottonseeds and soybeans. But they also warn the market can be subject to inflation as well as downward price pressures if enthusiastic farmers resort to overproduction.

Lula has said increased agricultural production will give Brazilian farmers “peace of mind” as they will be dealing with an assured customer, Petrobras.

Brazil is the world’s eighth-largest economy at market exchange rates and the ninth largest by purchasing power parity. This is likely to change in Brazil’s favor as the government attempts to steer the economy away from dependence on commodity exports to manufacturing, energy self-sufficiency and energy exports.

Not everyone is excited about biofuels usage rising worldwide. The impact on corn prices of corn-based ethanol production raised concerns across the United States. In a study for Foreign Affairs, the journal of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer warned that biofuels development had to be handled with caution as abuse or overuse of food resources for fuel production could lead to global starvation.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Consumption, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Conservation, Infrastructure, Other0 Comments

Tsunami Prompts U.N. Official to Declare: Disaster Preparedness is Necessary

NEW YORK, Oct. 16 (UPI) — A United Nations official who recently viewed the aftermath of the destructive tsunami in the Pacific Ocean says better disaster preparedness is necessary.

Jordan Ryan, assistant administrator of the U.N. Development Program, said Thursday that officials in the tsunami-stricken region should focus on improving their disaster preparedness when repairing their damaged infrastructure, a U.N. news release said.

The Sept. 30 tsunami struck the Pacific islands of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga, leaving at least 150 people dead and thousands more homeless.

Ryan, who also serves as the director of the UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, said if buildings on the islands were built higher uphill during the rebuilding process, they would be at less risk during future disasters.

The U.N. official said on Samoa alone, damage from the deadly tsunami is estimated at more than $150 million. Ryan said to help rebuild the island’s economic sectors, including agriculture and tourism, substantial funding will be necessary.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Buildings, Infrastructure, People, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Oil Companies Expected to Hold Back from Developing New Iraqi Oil Contracts

BAGHDAD, Oct. 14 (UPI) — Oil companies may hold back from a new round of bidding for development contracts in Iraq due to the lack of a legal infrastructure, industry analysts said.

“The absence of a hydrocarbons law, and a regulatory framework more broadly, does make it more unappetizing for foreign oil companies to submit bids,” Joost Hiltermann, deputy program director, the Middle East and North Africa, for the International Crisis Group told The New York Times.

Iraq is set to open bidding for contracts to develop 10 oil fields in December, that hold as many as 41 billion barrels of oil, the Times reported Wednesday.

Although the oil reserves are worth an estimated $3 trillion at today’s prices, oil companies have been reluctant to pursue investment in Iraq. “The lack of infrastructure and graft are looming issues,” said Wayne Kelley, managing director of RSK Limited, an oil consulting company.

Iraq’s oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani said oil companies should be prepared to hire 85 percent Iraqis.

Admitting the country does not have enough trained technicians, however, he said oil companies should also be prepared to establish a college to train Iraqis for highly skilled jobs.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy & Fuels, Infrastructure0 Comments

Federal Government Funds FSU Study of Rising Sea Levels

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Oct. 7 (UPI) — The federal government has given Florida State University geologists $1 million to study what will happen if global climate changes cause sea levels to rise.

The anticipated sea-level rise along with increased storminess during the next 100 years and the impact on the nation’s low-lying coastal infrastructure is the focus of the new, interdisciplinary study.

“Our hypothesis is that the historic storm record, which extends back only about 150 years, isn’t a reliable indicator of true storm frequency, but the long-term geologic record is,” said Associate Professor Joseph Donoghue, who will lead the research. “This project is crucial because the rates of change in environmental parameters predicted for the near future are much greater than those of the past several millennia. For example, some of the worst-case sea-level rise scenarios predicted for the near future have not been experienced by the coastal system for more than 8,000 years.”

By 2012, the study is expected to produce methodologies and models that will help coastal planners and managers in all low-lying coastal regions better understand, address and mitigate the near-future effects of sea-level rise. The research team will perform its field work along the Gulf of Mexico coast in northwest Florida.

Funding comes from a three-year grant from the Department of Defense, administered in partnership with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Effects Of Air Pollution, Energy, Infrastructure0 Comments

Climate Change in Greater Mekong Region Risks Biodiversity & Ecosystem, Says WWF

BANGKOK, Oct. 6 (UPI) — The World Wildlife Fund called for Asia’s first regional climate change adaptation agreement in the Greater Mekong region.

The area — which comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and southwest provinces of China — is already strongly affected by climate change, and a lack of immediate action will come at great cost to the Mekong nations, states a WWF report released Monday in Bangkok, while the U.N. climate change talks were still in progress.

The WWF report, “The Greater Mekong And Climate Change: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Development at Risk,” says the region, covering an area of 600,000 square kilometers, is to undergo major changes caused by climate change.

“Greater regional cooperation and coordination among Mekong nations is necessary to best cope with the impacts of climate change,” said Geoffrey Blate, Climate Change Coordinator for the WWF Greater Mekong Program, Xinhua reports.

Over the last 50 years, average daily temperatures across Southeast Asia have increased between 0.5 and 1.5 centigrade. By the end of this century, the report says, temperatures in the Greater Mekong region are predicted to rise between 2 to 4 centigrade. WWF said that the region’s coastal communities are threatened by a rise in sea levels, and changes to the climate are stressing ecosystems.

The region is home to more than 300 million people. Also known for its rich biodiversity, some 1,000 new species were discovered in Mekong during the last 10 years.

Land is being lost in coastal zones of the Greater Mekong, WWF said, and glacial melting in the Himalayas may impact the region’s major rivers. Wetlands will either dry up or become flooded out, WWF predicts.

The WWF report calls for implementing a regional climate change adaptation agreement and for a reduction in non-climate stresses such as unsustainable infrastructure.

“There is a leadership opportunity here to champion what would be Asia’s first regional climate change adaptation agreement to help Greater Mekong nations prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change,” said Blate.

WWF also called for decisive action on a global scale to avoid the consequences of climate change. It urged world leaders to strike an ambitious and fair agreement on a climate treaty at the U.N.-backed talks in Copenhagen in December.

“Rich and developed nations must make deep emission cuts and commit to significant financial help to assist vulnerable regions such as the Greater Mekong,” said Kim Carstensen, who heads up WWF’s Global Climate Initiative, Xinhua reports.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Biodiversity, Global Warming & Climate Change, Infrastructure, People, Regional0 Comments

Israel Expected to Erect Early Warning Stations for Tsunami Conditions

JERUSALEM, Oct. 5 (UPI) — An Israeli government committee has approved establishment of early warning systems to alert the public in the event of a tsunami in the Mediterranean Sea.

Dov Rosen of Israel’s Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute told Haaretz Monday he estimates a powerful earthquake will hit Israel within the next 50 years.

Rosen said the stations will be located off the Hadera coast as well as at the ports of Ashdod and Haifa, and said the first stage is expected to be completed in coming weeks.

Once completed the early warning stations will be able to transmit real-time information of a pending tsunami and give a 90-minute advance warning, he said.

The newspaper said the work is being coordinated by the Ministry of Infrastructure’s director of marine and land sciences and the institute.

The report noted the most recent tsunami in the Mediterranean occurred six years ago off the Algerian coast following an earthquake at sea.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Infrastructure, Other0 Comments

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