Canal future could rest on going green

1,438Views 7Comments Posted 25/11/2017

THE FUTURE of the Panama Canal in the face of accelerating climate change may depend on innovative green initiatives including floating solar panels.

A solar project has a minimum life of 25 years, which means that the strip of land where the solar panels are installed will be unusable for anything else  all that time " the administrator of Energy Efficiency of the waterway, Urho Gonzal, told Acan-Efe.

In addition, he said,  the installation of solar parks often involves logging, a practice that would endanger the watershed of the canal, where water is stored for the operations of the interoceanic route itself but also for the supply of the Panamanian capital.

"There is no point in devastating trees to construct a solar plant. in the canal we have plenty of lakes and, the efficiency of the solar panels is higher when they are on the water," adds canal electrical engineer Lucas Rojas.

According to different studies, photovoltaic panels can produce up to 20% more energy if placed on water because it does not accumulate heat, unlike the earth. "There is no project like this in countries with a tropical climate, although they are very fashionable in Asian countries and in Europe, we could say that we are pioneers in Latin America," says Rojas.

In June China inaugurated the largest floating solar park in the world, which has a power of up to 30 megawatts and is capable of supplying electricity to some 15,000 homes running at full capacity.

The Panama project directed by Gonzal and Rojas is much more modest, but it is an important advance in the green strategy of the channel. It consists of 96 solar panels located in a semi-closed recess of Gatun Lake and close to the Miraflores locks, on the Pacific side of the canal.

At the moment, only 88 plates have been connected, generating 22 kilowatts and supplying a small workshop where some of the tugs that help large vessels to navigate the canal are repaired.

The engineers are working on a larger project, which must pass the approval of the board of directors and consists of the construction of a 10-hectare plant in this same area of the lake, which generates 10 megawatts and which, instead of supplying energy to the small workshop, connect directly to the network of the channel itself.

"Our goal is that the future park will be able to supply 50% of the energy needed by the channel to maintain its operations during the peak hours of the sun," says Gonzal.

"The potential of Gatun Lake is immense," says his companion. Engineers were especially concerned that photovoltaic panels would rob oxygen of the lake and damage the rich ecosystem of the canal. but they have realized that the opposite is true: the panels prevent certain species of hydrophyte plants  from growing like the G water lily, which do harm the oxygenation of the water.”

The Panama Canal, built by the United States at the beginning of the 19th century and transferred to Panama on December 31, 1999, is considered one of the greatest works of modern engineering. It unites more than 1,700 ports in 160 different countries and allows the passage of 6% of world trade and the revenue from the passage of vessels is a major contributor to the Panama economy.


Comments 7

Richard Charron

It would be impossible to improve on that statement. Bravo!

2 years ago

There is no private industry in Panama except the corruption corporation.

2 years ago

Salud! to the fact that none of these old fools have any power to influence the future of Panama.

2 years ago
Darwin awards for all

Sounds like a bunch of adult men wanting to play like children again .i wonder if any of the have studied this false global warming crap or are they just reading the MSM bought and paid for crap

2 years ago

If this is so great then let private industry build it without taxpayers funding another bogus expenditure. Capitalism works better than government as long as government remains a referee and not a bias partner. Think Martinelli..!

2 years ago

So now, Canal is going for “fashionable”? Ever consider that China does these projects strictly for promotional effect (matters not if they are viable or functional), they look and sound great to countries caught up in the false narrative of Global Warming and want to be “hip”. China has learned marketing “green” very well so of couse if they want to sell their solar products, they have to show they incorporate it. A “solar park” supplying 13,000 homes at what cost per home (for a lifespan of 25 years.) Now consider for China this is a win — they manufacture the panels so the employment is a very material benefit. When they sell, that’s a bonus. But Panama is only a consumer so these benefits do not exist. Now, if China opens a factory here to manucture them, at least it would boost employment but would never be profitable here because of higher labor costs and work ethic. A disaster either way. And then, just when the investment of installation, someone will come up somewhere with better energy sustainability and we’ll be 15 years behind, as we’ve always been. By then, maybe once and for all, Global Warming will go the way of “ozone holes” and the enviro-nazis will have a new theme to scare us with.

2 years ago

The original canal was probably the first "green" engineering project of the industrialised world. Everything ran off hydroelectricity which the canal produced and powered the Zone.

2 years ago
The comments are the responsibility of each author who freely expresses his opinion and not that of Newsroom Panama.
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