Sunday, October 28, 2018

Honduras and Energy: The Keystone Resource

The church I attend put a flier in this week's bulletin.

The flier was titled The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

Buried on page 4 is a list of issues that should be of highest concern to practicing Catholics

"...the preeminent requirement to protect human life..."

"Protect the fundamental understanding of marriage as the life-long and faithful union of one man and one woman..."

"...comprehensive immigration reform that offers a path to citizenship, treats immigrant workers fairly, prevents the separation of families, maintains the integrity of our borders, respects the rules of law, and addresses the factors that compel people to leave their own countries."

And then the document listed six other issues.

An eco-dynamic perspective
The economies of many Latin American countries are struggling.
Per capita electricity consumption normalized to US consumption. Data from the CIA Factbook
If energy is the keystone resource, then the countries in southern Central America are struggling. More electricity is not simply a matter of building generation stations. Fossil fuels are a large drain on the national economy and reserves of hard currency when there are no native supplies.

Not only are the gross numbers discouraging, those counties face some huge distribution challenges.

Even tiny amounts of electricity, on the order of an additional kW-hr per day per household would have a huge impact on quality-of-life. That is because resources that are very scarce are first allocated to the highest value applications. (Essay here)

I know one person who adopted a family in Honduras. She was asking me about solar power. She saw this as an ideal way of bypassing both the low production and the distribution issues.

I did a very tiny amount of research on-line and asked, "Would they consider wind-power?"

My reasoning is that 300 Watts of solar power capacity runs about $300 before shipping and customs.

You can find wind turbines rated for 400 Watts on eBay for less than $100.

The other consideration is that wind power is a more accessible technology for a country of Honduras's development. Everything in that wind turbine except the gear reducer can be built or salvaged locally.

Blades can be fabricated from local wood products.

Wheel bearings, alternators and 12V batteries are available through salvage. Sure, they might be "not the best" but they are available for little more than the cost of labor.

The only thing that likely to cost hard currency is the gear reducer to match up the rpm of the wind turbine to what the alternator needs to see to operate efficiently. I estimate this to be in the $10-$12 range as an appropriate gear reducer is embedded within a $60, Mexican built, winch. The price at wholesale volumes is likely to be significantly lower.

Wind power is not an option for everybody in Honduras but for people along the coasts and at higher elevations it is a technology worth looking at.

1 comment:

  1. I agree - small amounts of electricity will make a big difference quickly in remote areas, and there the big cost is distribution - getting it there. The solution in cases like that is to go off grid and use local generation with either renewables or local fuel (i.e. wood). Another easy option to charge flashlights, radios, and cell phones are hand crank or bicycle crank (foot operated) generators, especially since many of those villages have excess labor available.
    Some people in Africa do this and sell mobile phone charging services.


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