Monthly Archives: May 2012

  • The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields.It has a diameter of about 1,392,000 km, about 109 times that of Earth, and its mass (about 2×1030 kilograms, 330,000 times that of Earth) accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Chemically, about three quarters of the Sun’s mass consists of hydrogen, while the rest is mostly helium.

    The remainder – about 1.69%, which nonetheless equals 5,628 times the mass of Earth – consists of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon and iron, among others.

    Sunlight is Earth’s primary source of energy. The solar constant is the amount of power that the Sun deposits per unit area that is directly exposed to sunlight. The solar constant is equal to approximately 1,368 W/m2 (watts per square meter) at a distance of one astronomical unit (AU) from the Sun (that is, on or near Earth). Sunlight on the surface of Earth is attenuated by the Earth’s atmosphere so that less power arrives at the surface – closer to 1,000 W/m2 in clear conditions when the Sun is near the zenith.

    Solar energy can be harnessed by a variety of natural and synthetic processes-photosynthesis by plants captures the energy of sunlight and converts it to chemical form (oxygen and reduced carbon compounds), while direct heating or electrical conversion by solar cells are used by solar power equipment to generate electricity or to do other useful work, sometimes employing concentrating solar power – that it is measured in suns. The energy stored in petroleum and other fossil fuels was originally converted from sunlight by photosynthesis in the distant past.

  • Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet’s atmosphere into space. Winds are commonly classified by their spatial scale, their speed, the types of forces that cause them, the regions in which they occur, and their effect. The strongest observed winds on a planet in our solar system occur on Neptune and Saturn.

    The Earth is unevenly heated by the sun, such that the poles receive less energy from the sun than the equator; along with this, dry land heats up (and cools down) more quickly than the seas do. The differential heating drives a global atmospheric convection system reaching from the Earth’s surface to the stratosphere which acts as a virtual ceiling. Most of the energy stored in these wind movements can be found at high altitudes where continuous wind speeds of over 160 km/h (99 mph) occur. Eventually, the wind energy is converted through friction into diffuse heat throughout the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere.

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  • The global challenge

    Many people in low-income countries, including those in Asia, have been conditioned to accept the presence of waste being dumped in their living surroundings, open lands and streets. As long as it is not in one’s own backyard, waste dumps are tolerated. Many people, including decision-makers, are not aware of the harmful impacts to human health, their groundwater resources, and their environment in general. Moreover, many people do not even realize that waste is energy and a product that can generate electricity and income.

    In today’s world, about 5.2 million tonnes of solid waste is being produced worldwide daily, out of which about 3.8 million tonnes in developing countries alone. In a recent report of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on Global Food waste, out of the 4 billion metric tonnes of food being produced in today’s world, between 30 – 40 percent never reaches the human stomach. In South East Asia, the loss of rice amounts 37 – 80% of all rice produced, which is about 180 million tonnes per year. Our world that is moving from the current population of about 7 billion people to 10 billion by 2080 will need to find proper solutions to avoid any further warming of our planet.

    Waste in Asia and its Value
    On average, humans produce between 0.4 – 1.62 Kg of waste per day in Asian countries. The proportion of biodegradable waste amounts between 42 – 80 percent. In the lower to middle-income economies this proportion is about 65 – 80 percent, while in the higher-income countries of Asia this proportion amounts around 45 percent. In many low-income countries the waste produced contributes to the emissions of Green House Gasses (GHGs), which contributes to global warming. In these countries, waste management has not been able to reach a certain level of maturity due to the lack of or weakly development logistics system, processing, leadership and management capacity and awareness and education in general.

    In South Asia, there is a potential to produce 8 million tonnes of compost per year, which is worth US$ 700 million per year or, alternatively as mentioned by a report of the Asian Development Bank, produce 3,340 million kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity per year with a sales value of US$ 700 million per year. Considering some level of carbon finance to be obtained this quantity could generate an additional US$ 218 million per year.

    In Singapore, for example, approximately 6.9 million tonnes of solid waste was produced in 2011, of which 59% was recycled and 38% incinerated in four Waste-to-Energy (WTE) power plants, totally producing approximately 1,075 gigawatthours (GWh), which is about 2.5% of the total energy demand. Only 3% was sent to the Semakau landfill. Singapore’s policy is geared towards the principles of sustainable development as the country has no space to waste, no life to risk and no nature to destroy. Its RRR (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle) program has become prominent among its citizens and inspiring for leaders of Asian and African countries.

    Surabaya, the second largest city of Indonesia after Jakarta with over 4 million people, inspired by practices in Singapore, has demonstrated a leadership that managed to develop and roll-out a community-based solid waste management program including a recycling and composting program, a reward and punishment scheme and training of cadre and provision of cleaning tools. While the city managed to reduce the solid waste volume that was sent to the landfill by 31% in five years time, the problem still pending is the landfill and the negative impacts in its immediate surroundings. Is WTE a solution to utilize the waste collection and composting system such that it could be used for feeding a bio-digester to convert waste into energy? Here is where incentives need to be brought in to attract private investors to design, build, own and operate a power plant feeding into the national or local power grid and help to make Surabaya a cleaner city.

    Moving Forward
    In Asia, the overall mindset of decision-makers of towns and cities are at the level of dumping solid waste in landfills. That mindset must shift through exposure of success stories and the capacity to execute after being inspired. However, there is a growing development in waste collection aiming to keep residential and commercial neighborhoods clean in the low/middle income countries. Unfortunately, quite often the collected waste is dumped in landfills that are not in compliance with environmental regulations. Cities like, Surabaya, are increasingly enhancing the solid waste management and are looking for a ‘end of the pipeline’ solution i.e. WTE systems, like in Singapore.

    Countries, such as China, India, The Philippines and Thailand are embarking on WTE-projects. In Hong Kong decision-makers are being confronted with the limits of dumping solid waste in landfills and allocated USD 4 billion to deal with their solid waste production in the next seven years. Hong Kong’s solid waste production is more than 30% higher than that of Seoul and Taipei. Part of this plan is a contested plan for building a large WTE incineration plant. Just like Hong Kong, several other places in Asia will need to deal with this increasingly urgent challenge. China is preparing for massive expansion of WTE projects to convert 30 percent of its municipal waste into energy by 2030.

    With the right pragmatic policies, public participation, incentives schemes, feed-in-tariffs, and political and professional leadership, countries can acquire the right ‘clean’ technologies to convert organic domestic and food-wastes into electricity. Private sector parties must understand the public-private nature of their investments in WTE power generation and the feeder-system or supply chains i.e. engaging, rewarding and increasing performance of stakeholders involved. Investors will need to be approached and convinced to participate in WTE projects as these are tangible medium-risk ventures with fair profits and serve the interest of all living beings on this planet to live sustainably.