Letter from the Editor: Electric Plants for Rapidly Growing Areas
Electric power sources are on or near the top of the wish list for many developing nations. Business, social and government leaders recognize that reliable sources of electricity are essential to a modern economy.
Without electricity, computers do not compute, mass transit systems cannot function, air conditioners do not enhance productivity, dryers do not dry, and traffic is snarled by a lack of control lights.
Unfortunately, though it is taken for granted by customers in industrial countries, electricity is in short supply in rapidly growing countries. The short supply often means rolling blackouts during the most productive time of the day.
Many developing areas, however, do not have the industrial capability or the infrastructure required to support the construction of central station power plants.
More importantly, growing economies do not have time to wait for the completion of a long construction project. They need power as rapidly as possible; it is a prerequisite for the rest of their development plans.
One common response to the need for a rapid installation of power generating capability is known as a power barge. An electric generator and its associated support systems are mounted on a barge in a shipyard, tested, and then delivered to the customer’s site ready to be hooked to a transmission network.
Instead of time consuming site preparation, power barge construction uses shipbuilding techniques, high capacity cranes and support shops, and a crew of skilled workers.
As long as the customer is near a body of water with a navigable connection to the supplier, the delivery and set up can be completed in a matter of months after the contract has been signed. Since 75 percent of the world’s population is near the coast, the market potential is huge.
In recent years, contracts for such systems have been negotiated in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Indian subcontinent. At first, most of the contracts were won by bidders proposing barges with diesel generators, but over the last several years projects using gas turbines have been completed.
Nuclear Power Barges
Recently, however, a new competitor in this interesting market has emerged. More accurately, a competitor with a long history of potential without much development has reemerged.
In June of 1996, officials at the Russian Kurchatov Atomic Energy Institute announced that the technical design of a 140 MWe power barge using two KLT-40 pressurized water nuclear steam plants had been completed. This reactor plant design is based on a well proven design that has been used in the Russian icebreaker fleet for more than a decade.
Instead of requiring 5 kilograms of scarce fuel for each kilowatt day of power production, they will be able to operate for up to 13 years on a single load of fuel.
In remote corners of the globe, where development is constrained by a lack of roads, rails and other transportation infrastructure, the ability to operate without constant fossil fuel deliveries is extremely valuable.
I hope that you find this topic stimulating. The though of helping to initiate a program that could have real benefits to those who are struggling to achieve a modest lifestyle has been the driving force behind the completion of this issue.