Potential Renewable Energy Sources for Kuwait
Kuwait’s solution to providing enforcement to the current grid capacity and reliability is by exploring the various available options of renewable energy. Some of the major renewable forms of energy being utilized all over the world include solar, geothermal, wind and hydro energy. Based on the country’s climatic conditions, the potential sources of energy available for Kuwait are as follows.
A key source of energy that Kuwait could utilize is solar energy. Solar energy involves converting the freely available and abundant sunlight to electrical power. The country experiences high temperatures and very sunny days between June and September (Salam & Mazrooei, 2007). Kuwait can therefore comfortably sustain solar power production throughout the summer.
Solar as a form of energy can be looked at from two angles: thermal-where solar energy is used for heating and photovoltaic (PV) which involves solar energy being used for power production.
The first form of energy involves converting the heat from the sun into electricity, which is used in homes for water heating and desalination. Utilization in this way would result in much saving in terms of expenditure on energy. This form of energy can be used to cater for all household energy needs. It can also be used in street lighting as well as in industries for food production. It requires little cost to set up and maintain a solar energy system in your house. Apart from this being a cheaper option, it is environmental friendly in that it does not emit any harmful gases.
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The second option of utilizing sunlight, photovoltaic, would require more complex system put in place. This option is in fact under consideration by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to be implemented in Kuwait. Plans are underway to invest $3.6 billion in Kuwait alone to achieve photovoltaic energy in the country (Alnaser 2008). Using solar energy is expected to reduce the contribution of Kuwait to the world’s emission of Carbon Monoxide which currently stands at about 0.2% (Alnaser, 2008). Alnaser (2008) has further argued that globally, there has been an average increase of 40% in terms of the volumes of energy produced from solar. There is still more room for improvement because the amount of energy produced in a single day is enough to sustain life for years.
Solar as a source of energy has a major shortcoming in that it is susceptible to interruption and thus not stable (ABB, 2011). The supply may be low during the cloudy and rainy days. The power produced may thus not be efficient and reliable for critical uses such as in production industries. Advances in technology should however be able to solve this problem in future. A more complex system that is able to store the solar energy and giving the user the control of the units being consumed is being explored. ABB (2011) has explained how lithium-ion batteries can be integrated with solar energy to provide back up during low production periods.
Previous attempts by the Kuwait government to embark on solar energy project were thwarted by sand storm and the prevailing large amount of dust on potential tapping areas. The government has at times appeared not to be too enthusiastic to the idea as it “fails to give financial incentives to those willing to pursue such projects.” (Hashem, 2011).
There is a renewed effort by the country’s government to invest in exploring the solar energy options. Recently, the country’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, (KCCI), revealed a government-lead project that would cost $120bn. The project is to be implemented within the next five years. It involves the government embracing solar energy as part of its development plans. (Hashem, 2011).
The government has also shown interests by partnering with other countries’ governments to implement solar projects all over the country. Fortune CT from UK and Toyota T Suchu Corporation from Japan are some of the international companies actively participating in implantation of solar energy in different regions in Kuwait.
Solar energy has little effect on the environments as not gases are emitted. The costs of acquiring a solar system are also cheaper compared to geothermal and hydro. Maintaining the system costs almost nothing as no fuel is used.
Wind energy involves utilizing the strength of wind to move large treadmills which in turn rotate to produce power. Just like solar energy, this form of energy is renewable and has little harm to the environment. Already, countries like Brazil are utilizing this form of energy ABB (2011). Brazil utilizes the offshore wind to generated energy which is then transmitted in the normal power lines for hundreds of kilometers. Countries with similar weather patterns including North African and other Middle East countries are in the process of implementing wind power use. It is projected that in years to come, wind energy will be used to produce about 12% the global energy and in the process a significant alternative energy source in the coming years (Alnaser, 2008).
Kuwait’s wind speed is above the 1400 per hour threshold which is considered as the minimum wind speed that can sustain economically viable wind production. Salam & Mazrooei (2007) have noted that in recent years, Kuwait has been experiencing increasing wind speeds. There has been an increase of wind speeds of up to 0.21 ms-1 between 1999 and 2004. The country could look at the positive side of this effect. Windmills could be set up at strategic places to help trap the wind energy and convert it to electrical energy. Alnaser (2008) has projected that Kuwait would be generating a significant amount of wind and solar energy by the year 2015.
For Kuwait to achieve this form of energy, a complex system made up of several wind turbines will have to be put in place at strategic areas. An ideal area would be on the sea shore to capitalize on the sea breeze common in such places. The acquisition of these turbines as well as setting up the plants will cost quite a lot. The government has to therefore provide some funding or offer incentive to private investor who may be willing to undertake the venture.
Wind plans have also been known to have a negative effect on the wildlife in the surrounding area especially the birds. The construction sites of wind power plants require an area that is free from wind obstruction. With buildings built across the country, finding such a place may be a bit hard. Economically sustainable production of wind power requires that there be windy conditions throughout which might not always be the case.
Geothermal energy involves utilizing the heat on the ground to yield energy. Kuwait has the potential of creating geothermal energy that is yet to be fully exploited. Plans are underway to increase this option of energy generation. The Kuwait government has given a go ahead to contractor to construct a water plant, Al-Zour North power plant that is expected to produce about 4,800 megawatts of power (Izzak, 2010). The government is also planning to increase production in existing plants by replacing old systems with more efficient ones. Izzak, (2010) has explained that the government of Kuwait intends to replace about 18 percent of the transformers currently being used with more efficient ones.
Other Countries in the Middle East have also been toying with the idea of geothermal energy. In UAE for example, Masdar, a pro environment conservation company has been carrying tests on how to implement a geothermal project in Abu Dhabi since 2009. The implementation was expected to start immediately after the testing.
A major set buck to geothermal energy is that the process is a bit expensive to implement as compared to implementing solar energy. This is because geothermal electricity generation depends on water; yet this water has to be gotten through desalination of seawater, which is a costly process. Initial set up of the plant is also costly. Another problem is that Kuwait is quite hot. Achieving the geothermal energy requires some form of cooling. This cooling is quite impossible to achieve without emitting harmful gases to the environment.
The depths at which the hot rocks are located vary from place to place. Geologists have to do thorough study to establish such facts and also to evaluate whether such a project is economically feasible in Kuwait. Once a geothermal plant is up and running, maintenance and running costs are relatively low.
Hydroelectric power productions involve large volumes of high pressure water being used to turn large turbines to produce energy. Kuwait experiences a low amount of rainfall with the average being about 115 mm (Salam & Mazrooei, 2007). The country is generally dry with few rivers. For the country to sustain an economical level of hydroelectric energy production, it must utilize other sources: primarily seawater. For this to happen, a fuel consuming process of salination has to be carried out which might be expensive to undertake.
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Just like the other aforementioned options, Hydro plant set up requires a lot of resources to set up. Such a project would therefore require substantive funding from either the government or private sector. This form of energy would require building of dams. This would result in interfering with the wildlife existing in the rivers as well as the surrounding area.
Another potential source of renewable energy is bio fuel. This is a kind of fuel that is obtained from biomass. The energy produced can be used for heating and lighting in the rural areas. It can be also used for cooking at both rural and urban setting.
Bio Fuel energy offers the only alternative to fossil fuel as a renewable carbon based source of fuel that exist is significant quantity (Klass, 2004). Klass, (2004) has argued that the levels of natural gas would not be sufficient to sustain the demand during the beginning of the 21st century. Such a situation would force the world to look elsewhere for their energy supply. This could require the stakeholders in the sector to shift to unexploited biomass as the alternative source of energy.
Kuwait can position herself for such an eventuality by investing in the relevant biomass conversion technologies. The country could, for instance, invest in power plants which use wood energy which is burned to generate steam. This steam is in turn channeled to turbines to produce energy.
To sustain this way of energy production, there requires a sufficient supply of biomass. Breeding plants that produce high amount of biomass can achieve this. Klass, (2004) has identified particular plant species that can achieve help achive this. Such plants include the unique herbaceous biomass plants and other hybrid flora, which he refers to as ‘energy plants’. Klass, (2004) has explained a way of ensuring a constant supply of biomass for biofuel. This is by ensuring that a new growth of biomass will readily come up in place of the biomass collected for energy production.
Bio fuel use has an additional advantage in that it has does not pollute the environment and displaces the use of fuel. When used in conjunction with coal or wood, bio fuel reduces the amount of harmful gasses released to the environment. Bio fuel use could also reduce the rate at which fossil fuel is being depleted from earth.
Closely related to bio fuel is use of ethanol. This ethanol as gotten from plants such as sugarcane, wheat and corn and can be used for fueling vehicles. Setting up plants for ethanol harvesting is relatively cheap. However, getting a constant supply of ethanol producing plants would require a considerable resource allocation. The process of production of energy is also quit costly, as it requires fuel. The fuel used in producing ethanol may also result in production of gases, which may pollute the environment.
The potential is there for Kuwait to explore other option of energy production. The underlying factor in all these options is some sort of funding for research as well as initial set up. The government of Kuwait can do this either directly or by offering financial incentive. Exhaustive cost-benefit analysis is also necessary to establish the viability of each option. Any option that Kuwait takes would an important enforcement to the current grid capacity which is dominated by natural gas and oil.
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