Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wind Power for Panama?
In recent months I have been reading a number of articles and sources on alternative clean energy. While it seems most government and media coverage, especially in the USA, is about drilling and finding more oil/fossil fuels to sustain the world's addiction to carbon fuels which continue to contaminate our environment and quite conclusively accentuates the global warming phenomenon, I see relatively little promotion of clean energy in comparison. This is just blatantly short sighted and wrong on the part of world leaders. Now in light of our global economic downturn, I might suggest that refocusing on alternative energy development could be a significant counter to the continual draining of our world's oil and finances. Panama, where I currently live, could play a leadership role and profit handsomely by doing so if only qualified leaders in both government and the renewable energy industries got together.
Wind it seems to me is one of the most obvious and cheapest sources for energy development. First, some global examples proving this statement, after which I will focus on ideas and reasons why Panama should and could take the lead in the Americas on this agenda. Of course, one caveat is that I have no technical or engineering background in energy. To that end I would welcome any qualified persons insight or corrections on my assumptions. Yet, I feel there is enough basic and obvious proofs in the marketplace globally for wind as an energy source that it doesn't require an "Einstein" to realize we should be looking towards wind power with more emphasis and ingenuity than it seems we currently are.
As I wrote many weeks ago on this blog, Denmark is one global example of a small country that in a relatively short time turned its energy insufficiency and high costs into an amazing "win win, surplus surplus" situation. Just to recap a couple key points, Denmark gets 20% of its consumed electricity from wind. One-third of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world are imported from Denmark. Energy technology exports there rose 8 percent in 2007 to more than $10.5 billion...more than 10x the annual income of the Panama Canal.
So...my proposition for Panama is this. If you want to solve your energy problems AND your budget deficits all in one swift move...line the Panama Canal Zone with wind turbines! The winds are strong and dependable year around from the Caribbean to the Pacific and vice versa. The ACP (Panama Canal Authority) could oversee the development and implementation in their zone where there is no other development or commercialization allowed. It would not be an eyesore for your tourist areas or residential zones…no one would know they were there except those passing through the canal on boats. What else are you going to do with all that vacant land throughout the Canal Zone? The energy created would more than cover the projected deficits of the current power grid in this vastly growing city of Panama. It would probably allow for billions of dollars of energy export income to surrounding countries like Costa Rica and Colombia who have their own energy challenges. The wind would be much more dependable than the water levels for the hydro electric dams that currently provide the country's diminishing electricity supply. It would be a much better investment than your new coastal bypass road for the city or even arguably the current canal expansion itself. Cancel the canal expansion (based on potential DWINDLING demand for transit of goods between North America and China), and put the money into the wind energy that will keep the country energy independent forever and a more powerful source of export income.
Of course, this probably won't happen...at least in the near future. First...most Latin countries down here don't often seem to see obvious opportunities, at least from political perspectives. And two, my current understanding of FENOSA (Panama's electricity monopoly) is that by contract, any energy produced in Panama privately has to be sold to FENOSA who will then be glad to sell it back to you at a profit. This significantly limits any privatized venture towards cutting edge energy developments in this country. So, until those macro factors and laws change, we will continue to pray to the "rain gods" for sustainable water levels in the dams and Canal Zone to squeak by on our marginal energy supplies.
I would love to see one of the main political parties running for the Presidency to consider adding this platform idea. It would be a substantially better new idea than any of the parties are running on currently.