“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.