Topics of the day: oil price, second opinion on OTEC, incompetent politicians
Today Nuihau (the author of the book “Energies Renouvelables”) invited us for lunch. He mentioned that stock exchange speculators are starting to become interested in options for 300 dollars per barrel of oil for 5 years from now – the current price is at 70$/barrel… looking at it that way he might be right in saying that Tahiti should install wind turbines and photovoltaic panels (and expand the hydroelectric capacity and possibly the copra oil production) – which are proven technology – now instead of “wasting time on experiments” like OTEC (Ocean thermal energy conversion) and Wavegen. If the oil-price really rises that much French Polynesia (and the world) will be (financially) screwed without renewables!
Sometime last week government officials met with OTEC-investors from Japan. Apparently they presented a 40-page document of which only 2 were concerned with the technology… Nuihau said there isn’t one in the world that works properly (but politicians (like me and most other people – to add a hint of political correctness) don’t always understand what their talking about/dealing with – they seem to be willing to invest). Some of the pilot power plants were destroyed by cyclones, they can’t be expanded at will (like PV and wind parks – of course there are spatial limitations but it’s definitely easier (possible) to add on another module) and they need large (about 2,5 – 3 meters for 5 MW) and strong pipes that go down really deep (which makes them expensive and vulnerable to currents too) – their efficiency is really quite low (three quarters of the electricity produced are used to pump up the cold water – but still I’d say hey, it’s free… well not quite the investment for 5 MW would be around 15 Billion CFP – comparison: 20 megawatts of wind turbines (10×2 MW – which would be needed for the same energy yield, since the wind doesn’t blow all the time) would cost about 2 Billion CFP). But what about reliability and storage? Will the biomass and hydropower capacities be sufficient? Can’t wait for Raphael’s software-experiments (to get the mix right)…
Nuihau said French Polynesia didn’t have the financial means to experiment – but on the other hand I think we need to experiment in order to find (more efficient) solutions to the energy crisis we are facing. If everyone hesitates to install pilot plants we’ll never get anywhere – it needs courage… and money.
Getting into the financial discussion really isn’t my thing but unfortunately necessary (in the “old”, I mean current system)… Why aren’t we talking about ecological issues (like the impact on marine eco-systems from offshore wind farms versus LIMPETs (Land Installed Marine Powered Energy Transformer) on the coast, the energy amortization period (of the resources flowing into the construction (concrete for example is very CO2-intensive in production)), “life expectancy” of the machinery,…), the ecological footprint?
When I asked about storage capacities for the atolls (they don’t have hills to store water behind dams (potential energy)), Nuihau responded something like: if the rich get hungry the poor will already have starved – meaning it’s important to take care of Tahiti first… that was hard to swallow.
We also discussed the possibility of public participation (communal finance) of wind and solar farms – he thinks it’s the (only) way forward – given the political situation… grassroots!
Final thought of the day: I think I’ve lost hope in politics – We need to mobilize the public (wait: what are we here for again?)…