Wind energy can help ease Lebanon’s energy woes

“The National Wind Atlas of Lebanon” concludes that harnessing the green power source could realistically generate up to 6.1 gigawatts each year, or about 75 percent of the country’s 2010 electricity consumption.

“We have huge potential and we can really benefit from [green and wind energy],” caretaker Energy and Water Minister Jibran Bassil told a conference held Tuesday at the Metropolitan Grand Hotel in Sin al-Fil. “These findings and this study give us hope.”

“We always used to hear different figures … one international firm said it expected that [5 gigawatts] of energy could be produced from wind, and we thought this number was exaggerated.”

“No one should expect that the solution to [Lebanon’s energy problems] will come from wind turbines alone,” Bassil continued, saying a diverse energy basket would help ensure “energy security.”

The map is the first of its kind and is expected to entice private firms to invest in the energy sector. It was carried out in cooperation with the ministry, the United Nations Development Program and the internationally funded Country Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Demonstration Project for the Recovery of Lebanon (CEDRO), which aims to see Lebanon meet its target of generating 12 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Lebanon suffered severe power shortages last summer with parts of the country staying without electricity for up to 18 hours a day. As much as 96 percent of national energy needs are imported, with the World Bank estimating that existing capacity will have to double within the next five years to meet rising demand.

Lebanon’s wind potential lies in four principal areas: a strip extending from roughly the Cedars in Bsharri to the region of Qobeiyat in Akkar, and three small pockets along Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria, each one located roughly due east of Baalbek, Zahle and Rashaya.

On the coast some small capacity has been identified in the Amioun area of Koura while offshore potential is very small and only possible in the northernmost tip of the country, at distances of 10 to 20 kilometers from the coast.

Heavily populated areas or those containing protected woodlands were excluded from the map. Spanish Ambassador Juan Carlos Gafo said Spain was playing a “key role in transferring expertise to Lebanon, and it has funded the three stages [of CEDRO], with $10 million going to reducing the cost of producing energy and improving lighting methods.”

“What Spain is doing affirms the country’s commitment to enabling Lebanon to combat climate change.”

However, the current data will need to be built upon in order to obtain a more accurate picture of Lebanon’s wind potential, according to Garrad Hassan, the company responsible for drafting the map.

Time constraints forced measurements to be taken from existing wind masts that only captured wind speeds at heights of 10 meters, and not 50 and 80 meters as needed for electricity generation, the report said.

The findings were also taken as monthly averages instead of daily values, further decreasing the accuracy of the findings, which Garrad Hassan admits could be as much as, and possibly, more than 10 percent off in either direction of the projected result.

It is hoped that the guidelines will be sufficient to attract funding, with investors being called upon to conduct their own additional studies if needed.

Issues such as political instability, grid inefficiency, electricity theft, low fee collection levels and graft have previously discouraged international firms and donors from pouring money into the underdeveloped energy sector.