Power ships may ease South Africa’s energy woes

first_imgPower ships are proving to be a quick-fix temporary solution to electricity constraints around the world. In Africa, they are used to good effect in Ghana. The floating power stations are either anchored off shore or moored at quayside and transmit power through cables or transmission lines. The Karadeniz Powership Rauf Bey, with a capacity of 179.1 MW, has been supplying electricity since May 2010. (Image: Karadeniz Energy Group) • New solar plants in sunny Northern Cape • Khi Solar One: renewable energy for the ages • New African energy projects leapfrog outdated technologies • Nuclear power holds promise for South Africa • Joburg to produce its own electricity from landfill Sulaiman PhilipPort Elizabeth is home to a large slice of South Africa’s critical automotive industry, foundries and the deep water port of the Coega Industrial Development Zone. It is an energy hungry region that, in 2012, soaked up 26% of Eskom-produced power, by sales.If Eskom could ease this demand, power for the rest of the country would stabilise and lower the pressure on the electricity producer. Solutions announced by Eskom are either costly – running diesel generators while maintenance is done on coal-powered plants – or at least 18 months in the future – when newly constructed plants come online.A quick fix would be power ships like the type that generate 22% of Ghana’s power needs. In Lebanon, two Turkish-built power ships supply Beirut with 270MW daily. Lebanon’s power demands have increased by between 6% and 8% over the last few years, mostly the result of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.For Beirut, the power ships are a quick-fix solution until demand stabilises or new power infrastructure comes online in three years. Gebran Bassil, Lebanon’s energy minister, explained at the inauguration of the first ship: “The power ships do not represent an ultimate solution to the electricity problem but a three-year temporary solution to allow the rehabilitation of [existing, conventional] power plants.”Power during crisisSouth Africa used a power ship in 2006 when a bolt was lost during routine maintenance at Koeberg, the nuclear power plant in the Western Cape. The amount of power generated by Koeberg was reduced and with load shedding looming, the utility rented a barge-mounted turbine to supply power.Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger told Moneyweb that power ships were not a solution the utility was considering. In the short term, he argued, power ships would help to alleviate the supply problem but at a cost equal to what Eskom spent on running its diesel turbines.Eskom produces 34 000MW of power, which just about meets the country’s power needs. A Karadeniz power ship would produce about 310MW, which is “capable of powering a town like East London. The idea is not to make a town self-sufficient, but rather to feed the electricity into the national grid.”With power comes infrastructureThe biggest builder of power ships is Turkish company Karadeniz. Osman Karadeniz started building floating power stations after leaving West Africa, where he saw persistent power shortages at hospitals lead to unnecessary deaths. Chronic power shortages meant development was hampered, miring the region in a cycle of poverty. “The concept behind it was how to provide affordable power in some West African countries where there [was] no infrastructure, not even a hardware store,” Karadeniz wrote on the company’s website.Karpowerships can go live – according to the website – within 120 days. The floating power stations are either anchored off shore or moored at quayside and transmit power through undersea cables or transmission lines. Currently the company’s technology allows a station to operate for 12 hours a day in a 12-day cycle. When it runs out of power it draws energy from a storage ship moored next door, in essence a floating battery.There are at least 60 floating power stations around the globe that use natural gas, heavy fuels and even nuclear to produce 4GW of power. In the north of the Russian Federation, a floating nuclear power station, with a 40-year lifespan, produces 70MWs of power that is transported 290 kilometres inland. The Karadeniz Powership Fatmagül Sultan, with a capacity of 203.1 MW, is the most powerful of the Karadeniz fleet. (Image: Karadeniz Energy Group)Falling power generationTaking 2010 as a base figure, Eskom produced 101.1% of South Africa’s power needs in 2011. That figure slumped to 99.3% in 2012. By July 2013, Eskom was producing 106.4% but slid to 97.3% by September. It was not until July 2014 that it breached the 100% mark again.Power production has sagged again, leaving citizens scratching their heads over confusing load-shedding timetables. But confusion is not the worst of it; Eskom’s problems influence the country’s growth prospects. While operating on razor-thin power margins, Eskom expects that once its new power plants come online demand will be met, with reserve margins once again reaching between 10% and 20%.In 2014, the International Monetary Fund expected the South African economy would grow by 3.6% in 2015. This prediction was tied to “robust infrastructure investment spending and easing of electricity supply constraints as additional electricity supply from new power plants [begins] to come on stream”. At the same time, the CIA Factbook warned that growth in South Africa would not exceed 3% until the country found new sources of stable abundant power.last_img read more

How will “Brexit” affect U.S. agriculture?

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Britain’s departure from the European Union would have little direct effect on U.S. agricultural trade but could slow economic growth tied to manufacturing, Purdue University agricultural economists say.Their greatest concerns are whether the current shakeup in the financial markets from Britain’s vote to leave the EU is short-term or longer, whether an already-strong U.S. dollar would continue to rise in value and how access to global markets might be affected.“The indirect effects will matter the most,” said Philip Abbott, a professor of agricultural economics who researches international trade and agriculture. “The effects on agricultural trade will be through the exchange rate mechanism and through any negative business cycle effects involving global demand. How big those are depend on whether this is a temporary or longer-term situation and how long the very recent changes in exchange rates and interest rates persist.”He pointed out that a strong dollar makes U.S. exports more expensive to the rest of the world and that a widely held belief in the agricultural industry is that trade and a weak dollar are good for U.S. agriculture.Still, agricultural exports to the United Kingdom amount to a very small portion of U.S exports worldwide, Abbott said. In 2015, the United States exported $8.3 billion in corn globally but only $62,000 of the crop to Britain. Of the $18.9 billion worth of soybeans the United States exported worldwide, $76 million of that went to Britain.Of the $133 billion in overall U.S. agricultural exports, $1.8 billion went to the U.K. Exports of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls “consumer-oriented products,” including wine, nuts, fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products, amounted to $62 billion worldwide, $1.1 billion of it to the U.K. Wine led in that category with U.S. exports of $282 million to Britain.The Britains’ vote of June 23 drew more attention to the issue of globalization versus nationalization — essentially open or closed markets — said Mike Boehlje, distinguished professor of agricultural economics. Supporters of the referendum to withdraw contend that the influence and sovereignty of Britain has suffered under the EU’s trade and economic regulations and its policies on immigration and the free movement of people within the 28 European countries in the bloc. Similar issues have come up in the current U.S. presidential election campaigns.“Generally, agriculture is much more dependent on international trade than other parts of the economy,” Boehlje said. “Globalization is important to U.S. agriculture to keep markets open to access.”Boehlje said openness also is important to agriculture for immigrant labor it needs and for sharing of innovations that promote growth.“These are probably the more important longer-term issues,” he said. “We don’t know what the answers are yet.”The economists agree that economic ramifications of a European Union without Britain need time to play out. Until they do, thee will be uncertainty.last_img read more

Building More Resilient Communities in the Face of Climate Change

first_imgOn a 2015 flight to New Mexico, Lane Johnson looked out the airplane window on the sprawling suburbs of Albuquerque and was struck by the sight of the Rio Grande, the thin ribbon of freshwater on which the region relies to survive. Johnson, a researcher from Minnesota who studies tree rings to model and reconstruct fires, had recently taken a job in Santa Fe with the U.S. Geological Survey because the arid Southwest presented a trove of professional opportunity. It also raised some questions. What makes the American Southwest a good place for fire research makes it a pretty bad place for much else. It’s prone to drought, limited in freshwater sources and precipitation, and home to some of the highest average annual temperatures in the country. It also has a population growth rate that’s been at least twice as high as the rest of the country since the 1950s. In the face of a changing climate, these challenges will only become greater. “It’s a delicate position that many hundreds of thousands of people have put themselves in,” Johnson says. Growing up in the Great Lakes region, Johnson says the lack of water in New Mexico concerned him. “There’s always that unsettling feeling of—by being there, am I contributing to the problem that I’m concerned about?” he says. “That maybe we’re at our carrying capacity in the Southwest, or beyond it if something related to water supply were to go poorly.”RELATED ARTICLESIs It Time to Move Our Cities?Resilience: Designing Homes for More Intense StormsBuilding Resilience for a ‘Close Encounter’ with DisasterClimate Change Resilience Could Save TrillionsRebuilding America and the ‘New Normal’ of Resilience As he settled into his job and his new life in Santa Fe, Johnson began wondering whether and how Albuquerque could bounce back in the face of an environmental crisis—and whether any place can really be resilient to the challenges posed by climate change. So, earlier this year, when Ensia put out a call to its readers for questions they wanted the magazine to report on, Johnson wrote in with what he’d come to realize was a very personal set of questions: “What does community resilience look like, and how can it be created and enhanced? Where are the most resilient communities in North America?” How communities respond to change The first part of answering these questions was to define resilience. In an explainer published in May, Ensia contributor Kate Knuth shows that scientists, researchers, and practitioners in various fields have interpreted the question differently, but all tend to associate resilience with how people and systems respond to change. Johnson’s questions are more narrowly focused on how communities respond to change. Just as some scientists look at the resilience of ecosystems or individual species, a growing number of researchers are studying the resilience of communities. They’re looking at environmental conditions that affect places—how sea level rise is likely to affect coastal Florida, for example, or how rising temperatures will spark more wildfires in California—but they’re also learning about elements that are not specific to the environment that make a place more likely to bounce back from extreme change. Katrina Brown, a geography professor at the University of Exeter in England, says community resilience should be thought of not as a trait or a characteristic but as a process that develops among community members. “It’s something that emerges from a set of activities and interactions,” says Brown, whose research focuses on the environment, global development, and the resilience of communities to change. “Rather than thinking that community X has this amount of resilience compared to community Y, actually it’s much more about looking at the social dynamics and the interactions that happen amongst people and how that might be building capacities to deal with different types of change and different types of shocks.” Brown has studied communities facing climate-related challenges around the world, and she’s found that many prioritize building physical infrastructures like seawalls to prevent or recover from change. But in areas where threats recur, she argues, communities should also focus on building support networks and response plans so they can meet residents’ needs when disaster strikes. “If you don’t have the capacity to organize, the capacity to plan ahead, and the capacity to bring people together and communicate and learn, then actually the physical infrastructure is only going to take you so far,” she says. This mirrors what architect Doug Pierce—who helped develop RELi, a rating system and set of standards for building resilience in infrastructure and communities—told Knuth. “Even if you have a building, neighborhood or infrastructure that can weather some kind of extreme event, if you don’t have cohesiveness within the population that is part of that, it’s hard for them to respond to the event while it’s happening,” he said. “And they can’t rebuild afterward if they are not cohesive.” Brown has seen that a community’s strengths in dealing with one kind of problem also tend to make it better at dealing with others. For example, flood-prone communities she’s studied in coastal England often develop elevated levels of social cohesion after floods that then enable them to collaborate in the face of other challenges, such as the economic blow of a local factory closing. That kind of resilience isn’t just about preparing for or recovering from disaster, though. In poor and flood-prone villages in Kenya, Brown says, she heard from many people that the resilience of their communities hinged on much more fundamental concerns. “What people said was, ‘We can’t actually build resilience in these communities if we aren’t educating our girls, because that means we’re only building the capacity of half of our community.’ So in a way they were taking a much more general view of what they needed to build capacity within their communities—not just for extreme weather events, but for a whole range of risks they were exposed to.” Social justice and shared responsibility “There’s a huge social justice consideration and dimension to this work,” says Steve Adams, director of urban resilience at the Vermont-based Institute for Sustainable Communities. Adams’ organization works with communities primarily in North America and Asia to develop policies and programs that address a wide range of climate-related risks. Increasingly, Adams says, the work has shifted from getting city governments to think about resilience to working with community-based organizations and nonprofits to improve their ability to address climate concerns, particularly in disadvantaged communities. Recent work with Maricopa County in Arizona has centered around organizations that offer low-income families financial assistance to help pay power bills during increasingly common extreme heat events. Adams says his organization helped create maps of utility service calls and power shut-offs during extreme heat to see how different communities were affected. Knowing where people were more likely to need assistance helped nonprofits better allocate resources, which Adams says has helped cut down on heat-related emergencies. The process helped “to surface how climate impacts rebound into a growing demand for social services, which is a cost that most local governments seek to contain, rather than seeing it as a pathway through which they can build community resilience,” he says. Building community resilience also requires shared responsibility, says Elizabeth Cook, a postdoctoral fellow at the Urban Systems Lab, a research group at The New School in New York that is focused on the social, ecological, and technical systems within cities. Cook is conducting a five-year study of nine cities in the U.S. and Mexico that are developing long-term sustainability and resilience plans. The challenges vary in these cities—ranging from Syracuse, New York, to Hermosillo, Mexico—but Cook says a common element in these cities’ planning efforts has been to put more power in the hands of neighborhood organizations that can respond to local crises. “There’s a lot of discussion around developing a more participatory governance system…essentially creating more opportunities for local communities to really actively engage in how decisions are made in cities,” Cook says. By decentralizing climate change planning, cities can let neighborhoods prepare for the threats that are most relevant to them. “I think that’s part of helping to build this connected network and this connected trust within the community,” she says. In Portland, Oregon, neighborhoods themselves are seen as instrumental to creating a resilient community. In its environmental and sustainability planning, Portland has prioritized policies that ensure resilience at a neighborhood level, particularly by focusing on the city’s urban form. The ideal is the creation of so-called complete neighborhoods that “improve community resilience to natural hazards by providing access to local services, offering multiple ways to get around, and fostering community connections.” In its latest comprehensive plan, the city has set a goal of making it possible for 80% of Portlanders to live in complete neighborhoods by 2035. Such tools for developing resilience in communities, though, can only go so far. Sometimes, Brown says, tough decisions have to be made when a place simply can’t become resilient to the extreme changes it faces. She says communities need to prepare for those types of decisions as they consider the implications of climate change. “It’s about thinking, ‘When do we need fundamental system change?’ And that fundamental system change might mean relocation of communities or structures, it might mean a change in your source of livelihood, and I think that that is part of the whole resilience issue,” she says. A more resilient place? After working and living in New Mexico for two years, Johnson moved back to Minnesota. He ended up in Duluth, a city that Jesse Keenan, a lecturer in architecture at Harvard whose research focuses on urban development and climate adaptation, recently declared an exceptional site for “climigration,” or climate migration. For Johnson, the pull back to Minnesota was more personal than environmental, but the resilience of the Southwest had been a concern during his time there. In Minnesota, he sees resilience in a variety of ways—from strong community interactions, to knowing that his food is coming from within a short radius, to having confidence that the farms providing that food are less likely to be struck down by catastrophic drought. All these issues were far more of a concern in Santa Fe. “My partner and I occasionally like to talk about other places where we could imagine ourselves living,” Johnson says. “Santa Fe is still one of those places, but thinking about 30 years out and the changes that might occur…Santa Fe’s lower on the list.” Johnson recognizes that the Great Lakes states have their own climate challenges, such as heavy precipitation and flooding, but compared with other places, they seem more likely to be resilient in the event of extreme changes on a variety of fronts. For example, all that freshwater can’t hurt. “When I wake up and get to commute to work and look out over the largest body of freshwater by surface area in the world, which is Lake Superior, that’s kind of a comforting thing to see and to know is there,” he says. Nate Berg is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities who now covers cities, science and design. He is based in Los Angeles. This post originally appeared at Ensia.last_img read more