“Peaking power plant” is a relatively recent term in the electricity markets for developing countries. But for some countries it has been a familiar term for a while. “Peakers” are known as the last power plants to be turned on and last to be dispatched. Peakers usually turn on when energy demand is peaking. Commonly used energy source for peaking plants is natural gas which is fossil fuel. It is important to note that these power plants supply energy only occasionally. Furthermore, peaker plants are relatively less efficient and could have more emissions per kWh of energy generated. Therefore, there are few negatives to start with. Hydropower is also a popular peaking power source. There are hydropower stations that can reach maximum generation in 16 seconds [1] Further extension of this technology is the pumped hydro power which is self-explanatory, and is indeed pumping water to a higher position during the off peak using the extra electricity generation to generate peak power later. 

   Nowadays with the emergence of energy storage and other technologies the peaking power plants have started to phase out in the developed countries. Energy storage, demand response techniques and innovative grid technologies are becoming more and more attractive. In places like Germany and California, USA these signs are prominent. Therefore, developing countries who are going to embrace peaking power plants should carefully monitor the other available technologies and related investments. As mentioned earlier, for the developing countries Peakers will still be needed since the cost of the storage is still high and the technology transfer has not yet taken place. Since there are no seasonal requirements (mainly summer air conditioning) in some parts of the developing world causes for peak are different and therefore novel technologies also need to adapt.

 Hydropower is not always viable for landlocked countries and/or small countries. There is already a significant deforestation observed across these countries because of the increasing population. Therefore, such a country would go for a natural gas power plant (or more) based on the demand. Countries like Thailand are proposing more base power plants while Indonesia has proposed large capacity (240MW) gas engines. Colombia is a hydro power giant and seems confident to rely on major hydro and coal power generation rather than focusing on Peakers. Pakistan plans to invest highly on hydro and coal while introducing renewables. Hugely populated countries like India and China are increasing their coal base while implementing even higher amount of renewables [2]. “Peakers” will play a significant role in these two countries during the next 13 years in their path parallel to 2030 agenda.

[1] http://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Peaking_power

[2] https://www.smartpowergeneration.com/content-center/conference-papers/peaking-reserve-capacity-in-india-2015

Volcanology is the broad study of volcanoes and related geographical phenomena. There are a number of volcanic observatories in the world established in countries with volcanic regions to monitor those areas closely for the purpose of documentation of geographical changes as well as for the prediction of disasters.

Volcanoes and volcanic regions are situated on plate boundaries which are also incidentally subjected to earthquakes and tremors. The friction of plates moving causes the underline rock to melt forming magma. As the temperatures and pressure increase it causes eruptions of magma onto the earth surface in the form of volcanoes. Earthquakes are customary in these regions due to the release of pressure and the shock of breaking of rock masses. Volcanic eruptions are known to cause massive destruction of any living and lifeless matter in its vicinity as well as the construction of new landforms.Major eruptions like Mount St. Helens, Mount Krakatau and Mount Tambora which managed to flatten miles of land and caused severely climatic impacts are examples of destructiveness of volcanoes. The newly formed Tongan island, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai is an example of the constructive nature of volcanism.

Various instruments are used to measure and observe geothermal activities, earth tremors and volcanic deformation. When an eruption or any intensification of geothermal activities is forecast warnings are issued to inhabitants of the region as well as to airlines flying through the area to be removed from the path of danger. In terms of prevention and mitigation of such disasters, the only possibility so far remains evacuation as the power of plate tectonics still precedes the powers of science and civilization. However earlier this year, BBC revealed an ambitious plan by NASA to deter the forecasted eruption of Yellowstone supervolcano by dispersing the building heat with the method of drilling down the volcano and pumping down water at high speed. Although scientists remain cautious about its success and the principle of doing no harm, this initiative if successful could be a giant leap for humans in conquering the planet’s destructive stances.

Thirteen years ago from today, the Indian Ocean suffered an immense loss following the Tsunami which was the result of the third biggest earthquake recorded in the history. Originated off the coast of Indonesia (West coast of Sumatra) the Tsunami severely damaged eight countries in the South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa (Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Somalia, Myanmar, Malaysia and Maldives) while the tides even reached far away countries like Tanzania, Seychelles and Yemen. Estimated death toll reported from Indonesia was 167,799 while in Sri Lanka and India the estimated loss of lives was 35,322 and 18,045 respectively. This is one of the largest loss of lives in during last century in Asia. The tides were reported in the range of 15-30 meters in Sumatra. During this period, there was no early warning system for Tsunami and therefore, a chance to mitigate the huge loss of life was missed.

 

   Now, after 13 years since the boxing day disaster, “Is there a proper warning system in place?” is the big question. An Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System was agreed to in a United Nations conference held in January 2005 in Kobe, Japan by The Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/IOTWMS) as an initial step towards an International Early Warning Programme. Dr. Sam Hettiarachchi from the Department of Civil Engineering at University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka was  a part of this coordination group while Dr. Andi Eka Sakya from Indonesia chaired the group. The ICG/IOTWMS undertakes a major basin-wide exercise every two years. The next IOWave18 Exercise is planned for  September 2018 Read more. The institutions like ITCOocean can further contribute to strengthen the system and serve countries around the Indian Ocean rim (26 from Asia and Africa). Over the years the hardware and other resources put in from each of the countries have contributed to steadily build up this system and more often than not has been drawn back by irresponsible human acts starting from cases of vandalism. 


 Additionally, in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush announced that India, the United States, Japan and Australia would set up an international coalition to coordinate rescue and rehabilitation operations. However, this idea has not yet put into action due to the uncertainties of diplomatic relations between the powerhouses of the world. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka still has to figure out some key  techniques of dealing with a major disaster. There are no proper communication mechanisms yet been put in place to get early warnings sent directly to communities before a crisis hits. More than new year wishes from politicians on a new years day, the communities which are quite vulnerable against natural disasters would appreciate an early warning system that delivers accurate warnings to their handheld devices. The Sri Lankan Disaster Management Center (DMC) has mooted the use of bulk SMS to warn citizen of adverse weather conditions. However some feel that bulk sms could clog the network and the message may not reach vulnerable groups  in time. One other option the officials can use is to employ ‘cell broadcasts’ directly to the mobile device. We hope the government will fast track their efforts to bring the real-time warning system online.

Additional readings:

United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)

 

 With the launch of the Iridium 4 last night the social media was taken over by an image of the spacecraft leaving a trail of smoke! The mission contains a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket which was  lifted  off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County last evening (Friday 22nd). This is the third launch of this Falcon 9. It carried 10 communications satellites for the commercial “Iridium Next” constellation in the lower orbits of the earth. The constellation is a  second-generation constellation for a global communications system.

 Vandenberg Air Force Base is about 150 miles north of Los Angeles and therefore, smoke cloud left by the craft was vividly visible and was widely seen throughout Southern California and as far away as Phoenix, Arizona.  Since the launch took place with the sun setting over the the Pacific it created this shining, billowing streak and we dared calling it Elons Tail!!! So, there is the secret behind the incident last evening.  If you want to see a high quality recording of the flight path, there is a video uploded on Danny Sullivan's twitter page. 

On another note on the trail of smoke, Falcon 9 uses RP-1 Kerosene Fuel. We found in a discussion forum the following. “The mass of the RP-1 fuel of the first stage of Falcon 9 is 119,100 kg. That is around 100,000 kg of carbon, corresponding to 360,000 kg of carbon dioxide. However, only a little less than half the carbon is completely burnt in hydrocarbon based rocket propellants, the rest becoming carbon monoxide or monatomic carbon. The figure is then closer to 170,000 kg. The RP-1 fuel of the second stage is 27,850 kg, adding another 40,000 kg of carbon dioxide”. This gives an idea of what was witnessed and how it was visible that way.  

Breakthrough Energy Ventures declared its 5-part investment strategy last week and since then there has been online chatter indicating many industry giants gathering around the process. The initiative was launched in 2015 at the Paris climate conference and started making buzz again after the One Planet Summit which took place in Paris, France on 12th December this year headed by the French president Emmanuel Macron (read more:“France, Macron and the 18 Scientists” )

  The group's commitment statement indicates that the main concern with the implementation of clean energy solutions across the world is the time taken for the technology transfer. It states, “Unfortunately, these energy transitions can take hundreds of years, and we don't have hundreds of years to transition to clean energy. Climate change is already harming hundreds of millions of people. The world must speed up the cycle of innovation”. To speed up the cycle of innovation there should be significant resources allocations. We see nowadays that most of the developing countries opt to go for hydro energy solutions to increase the renewable quota than committing to solar, wind and hybrid solutions. Such countries who jump into projects without proper assessments has been facing numerous problems with their projects and balancing the energy mix. Therefore, timely intervention from an initiative like this is useful. But we need to stress that the interventions should align with community needs rather than blind technology transfer. Listed under the areas of focus in their recent updates are

Grid-scale storage

Liquid fuel

Micro-/mini-grids

Alternative building materials

Geothermal

They state these focus areas are determined based on the megatrends shaping the world in next 50 years. It is quite interesting the attention given to Geothermal (we will explore this in a later article) .Furthermore, this coalition also commits to build technologies that change the way the people live, eat, work, travel and to introduce mechanisms to mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change. Therefore, their scope is likely to go beyond clean energy and hopefully account for the civil conflicts, human movements, and population growth among other global issues.

  Let's also look at who are included in this coalition. So far commonly known entities like Microsoft, Virgin, General Electric, and University of California are included and individuals like Jeff Bezos (The richest person in the world), Mukesh Ambani, Michael Bloomberg, Jack Ma, Retan Tata and Mark Zuckerberg are listed. So far in total the list includes 17 entities and 31 individuals. Under another sub-topic they list the “Mission Innovation countries” highlighting the commitments of USD 31 billion to support the development of new and enhanced low-emissions technologies. These countries are listed here. The newsroom linked to their website mostly highlights news on Bill Gates commitments to the venture and we hope to see more updates on the work they do and specifics on the projects soon.

There was a special conference on climate change which took place in Paris last week which caught the eyes of many. The Science magazine in its article indicated this as the “French President Emmanuel Macron’s effort to lure disgruntled foreign climate scientists to France—especially from the United States”. The event which was also called the One Planet Summit , was held on 12th December. 

 Justifying this statement by the Science magazine to a certain extent, France later announced that Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative has recruited its first class of 18 scientists. Of the new recruits, 13, including a few French nationals, now “work in the United States”, whereas others are based outside US. These selections were made out of nearly 1800 applications which were mostly from United States. The first set of winners were offered grants whereas the next set of winners will be announced in spring 2018. Reportedly there were 57 proposals turned in to the French National Research Agency and therefore, we shall expect at least two stages of grant offers.

One of the scientists, Prof. Camille Parmesan, who was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was quite positive towards the concept. Many believe that this is another answer to the American presidency which opted to leave the Climate Agreement this year closer to the UNFCCC COP 23. We hope this could be a substantial commitment than the hype created over Syria deciding to join the climate deal in November despite the ongoing civil conflict. This is mainly because we were not convinced of the possible real motives behind Syria joining the climate deal.    

Further outcomes of the event can be viewed here :Outcome Summary

  Just couple of weeks ago  the famous tusker in Sri Lanka, “Dala Puuttuwa of Galigamuwa “ was killed and it created a massive public discussion regarding the human–elephant conflicts of Sri Lanka. Finally, investigators found that the intention of killing the mammoth being was sell the tusks and elephant pearls of it. There is a controversy that  even a Buddhist monk is also connected with this killing and it reveals up to which extent this barbarian phenomenon has been spreading in the country. The human elephant conflict here is not new one, even centuries ago it was in this land according to historical records like Robert Knox. According to data gathered by the Elephant Conservation Unit of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), around 2,844 elephants were killed by farmers and 1,138 people were killed by elephants between the years from 1991 to 2010, while a total of 3,103 homes in Sri Lanka were destroyed by elephants (2004 to 2007)

  Sri Lanka has10-20% percent of the Asian elephant population; the density is higher than any other member state in this region. A land area of nearly five square kilometers is needed to support an elephant to make sure the natural balance that exists between the elephant and the dry zone habitats is not disturbed. According to this data, to current population of 3,500 elephants requires around 17,500 square kilometers   or 27%  of the total land area while the protected areas in Sri Lanka covers only 12.5%  of the land area (or 8,200 km2). This indicates that nature parks and reserves are not able to ensure the sustainable prevalence of these beings and sustainable solutions are much needed and to reach the prevailing solutions and the political willingness is the most necessary factor.

The lack of sufficient land area for existence of elephants is the foremost reason for human elephant conflicts. Droughts, floods and other climate change related incidents have been intensifying the conflicts in Sri Lanka while Sri Lanka has been ranked as one of the highest risk countries for climate change in 2018, according to global climate risk index. Therefore, there needs to be steps beyond understanding the issue. We will further discuss this in the second part of this article chain.

The recent escalation in the activity level of Mount Agung was yet again an instant of human vulnerability in the face of natural calamities. However, volcanology remains one of foremost areas of studies that stays on top of close observation of earth’s geothermal activities and hence is able to closely predict possibilities of disasters related to this area.

The escalating activity within the Mount Agung; an 2995m stratovolcano on the North-Eastern side of the island of Bali, Indonesia, with emissions of a great amount of ash and lahar flows caused scientists to predict that an eruption was at hand. There was historic data about the volcano’s past activity to predict what is to be expected. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated according to BBC and a “red warning” issued to airlines about volcanic ash in the skies.

However, people were ordered to return to their homes and the airport opened to business after there was a relative subsiding in the volcanic activity. Although there was no eruption, this was an instance where many steps were taken to mitigate and manage a disaster. A significant amount of sulfur and ash has already been released to the atmosphere according to NASA observations and this naturally implies future weather and climatic impacts.

 

Further readings : Each Volcano Has Unique Warning Signs That Eruption Is Imminent 

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