Lebanon Pursues Wind Energy Opportunities

Lebanon’s Energy and Water Ministry announced last week that twenty-three different local and international companies had sent in declarations of intent to build wind farms in Lebanon.

A statement from the Ministry said, “The number of companies shows great interest from the private sector to invest in wind energy. It also shows the opportunities allowed by the publishing of the ‘Atlas of Wind Power in Lebanon’.”

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The ministry revealed that the next step in the process is the formation of a technical committee to study the proposals and invite some of the companies to bid on an international tender. The committee would be made up from officials from Electricite du Liban, Lebanese Center for Power Conservation, as well as the ministry.

Lebanon set a goal in 2009 that by 2020, 12 percent of its energy demand would be provided for by renewable energy sources.

The ‘Atlas of Wind Power in Lebanon’ is a handbook put together by the United Nations Development Group (UNDP) and released in January of 2011. It studied Lebanon’s various wind opportunities and found that Lebanon has the capacity to harvest up to 6,200 megawatts (MW) of energy from wind farms. While the “more realistic” number is placed at 1,500 MW, they are seen as a crucial aspect of the country’s renewable energy program.

Right now Lebanon has an energy demand of about 2,400 MW, but provides just 1,500 MW. By 2020, it is estimated that the demand will reach roughly 6,700 MW growing at a rate of 6 percent each year. Twelve percent of that is just 804 MW, which experts are increasingly claiming is a reachable goal considering the opportunities for renewable energy.

The country already gets about 275 MW from hydro power, and considering the potential that wind energy has, the rest could easily be provided. However, that would mean establishing a strong wind energy industry in the country. And therein lies the problem.

Right now, due to Lebanon’s regulations as to land ownership and ongoing problems with the international grid, including inefficiency and sabotage, it is unlikely that more than 400 MW could be produced.

In addition, wind energy is notoriously difficult to harness. US-based renewable energy attorney and wind expert Janet Jacobs told Nuqudy.com, “Wind energy is an inconsistent and intermittent resource that cannot be stored cost-effectively so it is not typically used as an energy source in large cities where consistency in production is critical.”

She added that the size of wind turbines means that they are nearly impossible to build close to city centers.

Jacobs continued, “The great advantage to using wind energy is that it is a safe and clean source of energy generation without emitting toxic or hazardous substances into the ground or the air without depleting non-renewable sources of energy such as oil or natural gas. While the cost of building a wind farm is high, once the turbines are up and running, it’s a relatively cheap form of energy.”

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