Monday, April 18, 2005

Alternative Energy in Developing Countries: New U.N. Report

a Ghanaian woman

A United Nations environment agency survey has revealed the potential for renewable energy in some of the world's developing countries is much greater than previously thought. The UN Environment Agency (UNEP)'s four-year project to map the solar and wind resources of 13 countries has discovered thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy waiting to be unleashed in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America

"In developing countries all over the world we have removed some of the uncertainty about the size and intensity of the solar and wind resource," said UNEP executive director Klaus Toepfer. "SWERA (The Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment) is a good example of international cooperation that can produce a range of positive environmental and social outcomes. In the case of renewable energy, knowledge is literally power."

"SWERA (The Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment) has clearly demonstrated that the modest amounts needed to support renewable energy assessments can significantly change the way countries pursue their energy goals," said SWERA's project manager Tom Hamlin.

The countries where SWERA has carried out surveys to date are: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sri Lanka.

China alone has the potential for more than 100,000 megawatts of renewable power, while Brazil also has large amounts, according to the study.

Small countries also have surprising potential. Sri Lanka has a wind power potential of 26,000 megawatts, which is 10 times the country's installed electricity capacity.

Windy Lake Nicaragua gives the small Central American country 20,000 megawatts of potential renewable power.

In Guatemala, wind estimates before SWERA were mostly unknown, but is now estimated at 7000 megawatts, based on SWERA products. The Guatemala Ministry of Energy has established, with support from SWERA, the Center for Renewable Energy and Investment within the Ministry to carry out validation studies and identify sites for wind energy development.

The benefits for each country differ. "If you look at China and Brazil they're going to be manufacturing the (renewable) plants and there are big economic benefits in that," said Hamlin. "And there are broad economic benefits for the smaller countries," he said. "Instead of always importing petroleum they would have domestic resources so they would save on the costs and risks of having petroleum prices fluctuate wildly."

In the African country of Ghana, where the SWERA study discovered more than 2,000 megawatts of wind energy potential, this is "quite a significant amount" according to UNEP, as it estimates that Africa need just 40,000 megawatts of electricity to power its industrialisation.

Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment Website

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Blogger stomv said...

The challenge with wind power in 3rd world areas is that the base level doesn't increase -- so there is only power when the wind provides it, and brown/blackouts when the air is calm.

While solar isn't nearly as effecient in terms of MW/dollar, and only works in the daytime, it would seem that the UN must emphasize a bigger baseline of solar, to ensure that hospitals, factories, and government buildings can maintain power during the day in order to maintain productivity.

It also seems like these areas are ripe for "power storage" systems, such as using wind and solar power to pump water uphill and letting it flow down to generate electricity, thereby allowing the system to have some electrical reserves for dark, windless nights.

7:18 am, April 17, 2005  
Blogger geokker said...

For me, alternative energy should be location independent. Everyone is precisely the same distance from the most consistent, recognisable, immediately useful energy namely geothermal. If the developed nations got together, they could harness the power of the Earth's core (or as close as possible) and distribute the power over the surface.

1:01 pm, April 18, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that alt. energy is a good source to use. I am only in the 6th grade, but I am learning about it and also have to do a project on it in science.

3:47 pm, April 19, 2005  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Good luck, Anonymous.  Just remember this about energy in general, and alternate energy in particular:  the devil is in the details.

If you have questions, feel free to mail me at the link on my blog, The Ergosphere.

9:45 pm, April 20, 2005  
Blogger Thomas said...

Wait until CAFTA comes to these countries, and everything is upset with respect to demand for energy and how they will go about it. Anyone see a National Geographic edition on how polluted many parts of China are in their rush for power and industry?

11:16 am, May 14, 2005  

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