STORING THE SUN – CONCENTRATED SOLAR POWER
Driving up to Crescent Dunes is like journeying to the future: 10,000 mirrors direct sunlight onto a receptor in a 200-meter-high tower that glows brightly from the focused beams. In the receptor, molten salts heat up before being stored in an insulated reservoir at the base of the tower or used directly to generate electricity through steam turbines. Stored in a hot tank, liquid salt moves through a heat exchanger for steam generation later (usually at night) and the plant has a capacity for 10 hours of full-load generation from storage. Technology literally directs the sunlight to the receptors and the mirrors move every six seconds in a choreographed stepping motion to maintain efficiency. In the tower’s base, a control center directs operations; futuristic software controls the mirror positions, energy generation, and transmission. With no degradation of output, this 110MW plant powers 75,000 homes with zero fossil fuels and a projected 40-year life. This technology offers 24-hour-a-day solar power.
SolarReserve (www.solarreserve.com/) and their emblematic Crescent Dunes solar plant in Nevada, U.S.A sits at the forefront of this Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology. As the energy transition gathers momentum, demand for seamless alternatives to fossil fuels accelerates. CSP captures the imagination as one stunning alternative.
CSP lends itself to larger “utility scale” generation projects (commonly greater than 100MW) and generally requires more constant sunlight than photovoltaic (PV) modules. This, just like hydroelectric-power generation, depends mostly on geography – consider the abundance of sun like the water entering a power-generating dam – both are natural phenomena; the infrastructure must stand in the right place. Hotspots for CSP lie in the western part of Latin America (where altitude has a hugely positive impact), the southwestern United States, Australia, northern and southern Africa, western China, and sunny parts of other continents – such as Spain, which currently boasts the most CSP installed.
WEMCo supports renewable energy and keeps abreast of the latest developments. As governments encourage renewable energy, we believe lobbying by businesses, communities, local authorities, and all interested stakeholders can accelerate low-carbon solutions – take for example the SolarReserve Port Augusta project in South Australia (https://aurorasolarthermal.com.au/). WEMCo offers advice and enthusiasm to maximize your participation in the energy transition.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND WHAT IT MEANS (OR CAN MEAN) FOR YOU AND YOUR COMPANY
Renewables have broken the Energy mold. Now, their game-changing economics have generated their own kind of power. Not only does low-carbon energy produce low-cost power, but it often creates invaluable assets.
Why? What’s behind this shift in market forces?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has, since 1995, organized the annual Conferences of Parties (COPs). The COPs devise greenhouse gas emissions policies and aim to limit global temperature rise caused by anthropogenic (human) activities to less than 2 degrees Celsius. In the 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21), virtually every nation in the world (197 parties) agreed to work together to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The Paris Agreement requires that every five years members submit action plans known as nationally-determined contributions, or NDCs. Each country must continuously strengthen its plan. COP21, now ratified*, drives government policies worldwide to reduce fossil fuel use and increase renewable energy. The photovoltaic (PV), or solar panel, manufacturers and installers now benefit from economies of scale and strive to build solar farms that can satisfy utility-scale demand at lower and lower prices.
“Storing the sun” now ranks as a second “race to space” as technology companies vie to design huge batteries and exploit the sun’s stored PV power at night or optimize Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), which heats a liquid to produce 24-hour power from conventional turbines. Plug into this worldwide megatrend and you’ll find big opportunities to increase value and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
WEMCo recognizes the influence that climate-change science has on your business—from promoting your brand to engaging your employees in Sustainability. We can assist in the design of policies and practices at any scale that keep your business up to speed with the fast-moving world of climate-change science and politics – WEMCo Helps You Keep up with the COPs! Every month you will discover insights into the reality of climate-change-driven businesses and businesses driven by climate change.
*U.S. President Donald Trump has initiated the USA withdrawal from the COP21 agreement, which adds a new dimension to the politics of climate-change science.
EDITION FEBRUARY 2018
Many projects or industries experience significant delays or cost increases because of issues outside the direct area of management, e.g., outside the building, plant, site, or mine. Goldman Sachs (ref*) reported that in the oil and gas industry 73% of delays were for non-technical issues (political or stakeholder-related) whilst only 21% were for technical reasons. This perhaps reflects the expertise of companies in technical matters with a lesser focus on stakeholder issues. The statistics clearly demonstrate that delays can be significant for issues “Outside the Fence.” Remediation can be costly and time-consuming, especially if senior management doesn’t have expertise working with a wide range of stakeholders.
WEMCo analyzes issues Outside the Fence through proactive, participatory frameworks and methodologies that enable teams to identify and engage stakeholders. Our whole-systems approach challenges people to reframe deficit issues into positive opportunities. Together, we can design solutions involving communication, engagement, and strategy to help you avoid risks and remediate existing challenges.
This month we describe two issues Outside the Fence – a classic Mine-to-Port transportation issue, and an example of radical transparency generating newsprint in the entertainment industry.
From Mine to Port – Concentrates and Conflicts
Las Bambas, a copper mine of world-class importance, sits in one of the poorest highland areas of south-central Peru, populated by rural Quechua-speaking communities. Culturally, extremely low-trust communities, their suspicions are heightened when affected by decisions taken at a high-level in Lima, the far-away capital on the coast. The mine produces copper concentrates in huge quantities – over 400,000 tones of contained copper per year, which necessitates a gargantuan road/rail transport operation to a port 600 km away. Since 2015 when operations started, the road transport through rural highland communities has provoked social conflict.
At a public audience in 2010, the investing company informed local communities of the scope of the project and its potential impacts. In 2011, the Peruvian government approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the investor undertook commitments to construct the project at an estimated cost of 5 billion USD. The company planned to transport concentrates from Las Bambas to a sister mine 150 km away through a large-diameter mineral pipeline; this pipeline would pass through rural highland communities.
In 2014, the ownership of the mine changed hands and the affiliation with the sister mine ended. At its termination point, the mineral pipeline was already under scrutiny (and protest) by local communities who expressed concern about pollution – although, technically speaking, the sister mine apparently had more than adequate facilities to handle the concentrates before sending them onward by road and rail to the port. The company halted the mineral pipeline and adopted road transport – involving hundreds of trucks passing daily through communities not prepared for such an eventuality.
In 2013 and 2014, the government adopted changes to the EIA involving the construction of an additional plant at the mine site and transport by road as “technical addendums,” which did not involve a public audience. At this point, Peru struggled with the implementation of ILO 169 legislation (based on Free Prior Informed Consent). Some local communities rejected the EIA changes because they occurred with little public participation.
In September 2015, a protest initiated in the area around the mine and its transport routes culminating in a conflict between communities and the police that resulted in the deaths of three community members and injuries to several policemen. The road transport through communities and the perceived dangers of the additional plant to the local town’s water supply emerged as the core conflict. Both issues were viewed as “non-informed” to local communities, who regarded the decisions as disrespectful. In late 2016, protests flared again over transportation and the classification of the roads, leading to the death of a protestor. In February 2017, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in the area close to the mine and the transport routes effectively banning public assemblies. The state of emergency was renewed continuously throughout 2017.
In January 2018, the Peruvian press reported that the President of Peru proposed the construction of a 2.4 billion-dollar railway to alleviate the region’s transport issues. Financed by a “public-private partnership,” this would be a huge engineering undertaking with a construction period of several years and not a quick solution to the 400 or so trucks currently passing daily through rural communities.
This classic mine transport issue is highly complex but involves some simple concepts:
1. The communities are not anti-mining. They feel disenfranchised by the lack of respect for agreements that date back to 2004 and the failure to respect subsequent promises made by authorities. In the context of low-trust environments we recommend that agreements and promises are kept to those issues that are achievable by the company and demonstrable to the interested stakeholders.
2. Modifications to the scope of the project were not informed to the stakeholders. As well as negative impacts of the modifications (perceived or real), the communities are energized to protest by the apparent lack of consultation. We recommend that wherever possible an open communication is maintained to avoid the perception of non-informed changes.
3. There is no plan. From mineral pipeline, to road transport, to a proposed railway – the lack of a sustainable plan and reactive nature of the various authorities underpins the potential for conflict linked to changes in the operation. We recommend that sustainable plans are developed early with little modification wherever possible.
*190 Projects to Change the World, 2008. Goldman Sachs
Radical Transparency – Everyone Will Know Everything (whether you like it or not)
Taking a large jump from the Andes of Peru, we land in Anaheim, the center of Disney’s operations in California with two large Disney theme parks and a host of associated investment crucial to the economic activities of the town and its people. As reported widely in the American press in November 2017, Disney Corporation ended the privileges of Los Angeles Times´ film critics to view advanced film screenings. Apparently, articles the L.A. Times had published on Disney’s activities in Anaheim prompted the prohibition. The ban on the L.A. Times sparked a solidarity-focused boycott of Disney coverage by several other news organizations. Disney reversed its decision stating, “We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at the Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns and as a result we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics.” This generated a large amount of press coverage, all of it very much Outside the Fence for Disney.
We recommend that businesses prepare for and accept radical transparency – it plays a key role in the modern world and can damage reputational value even if the origin of a story is questionable. Avoid potential damage (tidy up your operation, implement good practices, embed Sustainability), make a clear response plan, and be prepared to promote ALL aspects of your business. Even better, communicate well and tell your story before somebody else does. At WEMCo, we incorporate radical transparency into our Sustainability consulting services and offer proactive advice aimed to create value.
Sustainable Development challenges us to take a broad, holistic view of the world of business. It’s a license to be curious. It inspires a willingness to take risks and simultaneously offers new opportunities to mitigate risks. In these posts, we curate a wide array of relevant articles, thoughts, and ideas.
When Everything Matters takes an interdisciplinary approach to business. Working with great people ratchets up excitement. We like the power of new ideas and co-creating them with our clients. We hope these posts ignite your curiosity.
Wayne E. Mayer, Ph.D.