High-energy desert sun and water/wind power from mountains!

By Paul Robinson - 08 Feb 2015 17:0:0 GMT
High-energy desert sun and water/wind power from mountains!

We are mixing the marvellously-preserved with the newly-built in terms of power. The Emirs of Samarkand once enjoyed great power, as displayed in the Registan here, where rare clouds gather at dawn. It is named as a sandy place but the sun-power that radiates upon it almost every day of the year will soon be an even greater source of energy for Central Asia.Samarkand image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Renewable energy is finally taking off in California, Germany, China and elsewhere. In the process, local energy needs and economic reforms have also been dealt with, leading to some hope for better land use and regional economies. Less-developed countries and regions have placed great emphasis on the advantages of wind and solar power for their needs. Less investment needs to be found and even householders can have an interest in those panels on their roof. The trouble is policies have to adjust nationwide to accommodate the transitory nature of solar electricity generation. Grid modification to cover even the most isolated areas and the international cooperation often required in hydroelectric power planning have rarely been completed. The need is to complete planning of these infrastructures.

Taking one Central Asian nation as an example, enormous potential in the form of solar power and biomass energy sources exists. Uzbekistan grows one helluva lot of cotton, leaving the plant waste for traditional heating uses. This amount of cotton stalk waste could supply major power stations, or feasibly, provide many local needs with modern small and perhaps more adaptable installations. The country has vast solar potential in large areas of scrub and desert, with wind potential near the western Tien Shan mountains. Obviously the geographical, social, cultural and incentive factors vary across Uzbekistan.

65% of the population live in rural situations, with the ancient Silk Road cities taking up much of the rest of the population. 5% of the population are not even connected to the electricity grid. Ripe material for useful solar power connections in the Karalkum or wind power in the Tien Shan! Even an off-grid installation would suffice in some difficult areas, but linking up would of course benefit the whole nation.

The large scale power of big dams supplies 70% of the hydropower of the Uzbeks. Low rainfall within Uzbekistan means that these energy sources lie in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Polluting and water supply problems of the past surrounded the planning of at least one Chinese-style enormous dam in Tajikistan. Potentially the 4 river basins can supply 12GW of energy. Fossil fuel-powered stations are less efficient in supplying their electricity, as are small scale hydro-power plants because of the loss of seasonal flow. In comparison, photovoltaic cells are decreasing in price, to make them affordable for the first time for universal application. President Islam Karimov has taken into consideration the high solar irradiation levels for the Karalkum in predicting 99.7% of Uzbekistan’s renewable capacity will be solar.

Electrical storage accumulators have been suggested to solve the problem of how to use PV panel output continuously, but surely a National Grid could carry this largely rural production to the cities! The use of the most efficient (household) appliances would also help efficiency in family and small business consumption. The SW autonomous region of Karakalpakstan has already been provided with Clean Energy local renewable facilities and it has proved to be very useful in securing 24-hour hot water and heating services in mostly remote locations, said Xodzamurat Kaipnazarov, head of the Karakalpakstan administration's Trade and Industry Chamber.

The large 100MW Samarkand solar plant, built with crystalline solar PV cells, due to begin construction in 2015, will be capable of 200million kWh of annual production, when complete. For this first solar plant for Uzbekistan, the investment of $207 million is partly financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADP) with the bulk coming from national funds and the state energy company, Узбекэнерго (we translate this as UzbekEnergo.) Photovoltaic magazine carry this useful article on the first Uzbek solar plant.

Other nations can take note of a shift from the traditional gas and goal to a more climate-friendly energy economy. Island nations particularly will breathe a sigh of relief that people are actually taking notice of their perilous rising sea levels, while too many coastal cities we know well will also benefit from any reduction of global warming as their next century looks less and less viable.