My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Alternative Energy and Helix - A Test Case for Wind Power for Telecom Providers

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Alternative Energy and Helix - A Test Case for Wind Power for Telecom Providers

To Be or not to be; that is the question
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing, end them

Excerpt from Shakespeare, Hamlet, III, 1

This is indeed the cry of many members of the Private Sector, who are now very much in expansion mode, thanks to the favorable investment climate created by the just concluded JDX (Jamaica Debt Exchange) as stated in the article “JDX ends at 99 per cent; Minister says thanks”, published Thursday, February 25, 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

According to the letter to the editor entitled “Jamaicans ignoring the positives”, published Monday June 14 2010, by Carlin Cook, The Jamaica Gleaner, Mr. Carlin Cook posit the fact that:

1.      The police have reported no murders in a forty eight (48) hour period from Friday 11th June 2010
2.      The Jamaica dollar is strengthening against all currencies

A result of the JDX and the IMF deal and our interest rate as issued by the BOJ is now in stable single digit territory, quoted here as approximately 9.5%, the lowest in twenty eight (28) years.

As if that was not enough to encourage further macroeconomic stabilization, the strengthening of the Jamaican Dollar translates to a ripple effect thought the Jamaican Economy, in the form of a decrease in Electricity Rates.

Hence the lowering of the rate hike of 4.7% granted by the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) to the JPS Co (Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd) to approximately 2.7% based on the First News, aired Tuesday June 15th 2010 by Simone Clarke-Cooper, Smile Jamaica, Television Jamaica

A reduction in the prices of certain products led by Mr. Matalon owned Wisynco Group as per advertisement on Sunday June 13th 2010 in the Sunday Gleaner, pg. A11 and a similar push by National Bakery to salute fledgling businesses in Jamaica titled The Bold Ones as per advertisement on Sunday June 13th 2010 in the Sunday Gleaner, pg. F8, F9.

The revaluing of the dollar affects exports by making their “artificially” more expensive and thus unattractive to merchants abroad who naturally are looking for goods at cut rate prices, a phenomenon and solution for which are thoroughly analyzed in my blog article entitled “Alternative Energy and the Revalued Dollar - Cheaper Electricity is Needed”.

But it is the diversification of the Energy Sector, hitherto christened the Energy Sector Liberalization that Private Sector inclusive of FDI (Foreign Direct Investors) such as Hotels and Telecoms Providers are waiting with bated breath as Senator James Robertson, Minister of Mining and Energy negotiates with principal suppliers and Contractors with regards to the usage of LNG (Liquid Natural Gas).

This is stated by the JPS Co as resulting in a 20% to 30% decrease in the Electricity bills of customers as stated in the article “Government eyes LNG cure for Energy problems”, published Wednesday June 16 2010 by Laura Redpath, Senior Staff Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This is necessary to encourage Private Sector to begin its ambitious expansion plans and thus generate growth and employment, growth here being referred to as not only employment but also increased exports and foreign exchange inflows as stated in blog article entitled “Alternative  Energy and LNG - Is Energy Sector Liberalization Necessary?”.

The strengthening of the Jamaica dollar necessitates either cheaper Electricity from the number one (1) Power Utility Company (PUC), that being JPS co, or the so-called Energy Sector Liberalization, which though necessary as far as Senator Phillip Paulwell, Opposition Minister of Mining, Energy and ICT have been strenuously lobbying for on behalf of John Public as stated in the article “Government, Opposition wrangle over Energy”, published Saturday  April 3, 2010, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Followed up by further calls for Energy Sector Liberalization as stated in the article “Paulwell calls for number portability”, published, Wednesday April 21, 2010, Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner and later when Senator Phillip Paulwell, Opposition Senator on Mining and Energy stated that “the current cost [Electricity and Fuel] is astronomical, especially for businesses.

What is needed at this time is competition in the sector,” as he stated in the article “'Follow my Blueprint' - Paulwell pushed for breakup of JPS Monopoly”, published Friday April 30 2010, Mark Titus, Business Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner, all of which of course is document in my blog article “PetroCaribe Trap - Does this mean that Energy Sector Liberalization will not occur”.

John Public, in retrospect, has been wondering if Energy Sector Liberalization is even at all necessary. After all, we cannot trust the JPS Co and the Government of Jamaica and its negotiations with Contractors to achieve conversion to the usage of LNG, which may not occur before 2012 and Energy Sector Liberalization.

Though a wonderful construct of engineering efficiency and a market elixir for competition, it may not come on stream any earlier than 2012AD either due to the technical hurdles that must be overcome in enabling competition.

Then there is the apparently overlooked the Bio-Fuel Industry in general, specifically as it relates to the production of Anhydrous Ethanol using sewage, and pyrolized organic waste from any organic source as stated in the article:

1.      Microbes to start making ethanol, chemicals”, published November 18, 2009 9:52 AM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News – Green Tech
2.      Microbe converts sludge to ethanol”, published Friday 11, December 2009, by Martin LaMonica, CNET News – GreenTech
3.      Wood-chip ethanol maker opens plant”, published October 15, 2009 7:50 AM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News – Green Tech
4.      A Forest epidemic turns into Energy opportunity”, published April 7, 2010 2:04 PM PDT by Candace Lombardi CNET News - Green Tech

So too must be the acceleration of the development of Bio-Diesel as detailed in the article:

1.      Gene-altered bugs make Bio-Diesel”, published Wed Jan 27, 1:31 pm ET by AFP,Yahoo News!
2.      'Green' gas and Diesel get boost in Bio-Fuels grant”, published December 4, 2009 12:33 PM PST, by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech
3.      Researchers coax bacteria to make Bio-Diesel”, published January 27, 2010 3:59 PM PST by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech

Even in the traditional frontier of Solar power, the Government of Jamaica must begin its expansion with the recent implementation of practical Steam Plants in the case of eSolar as stated in the article “eSolar plugs solar plant into California grid”, published August 4, 2009 9:01 PM PDT by Martin LaMonica, CNET News - Green Tech as the only shining example thus far of a solar power plant able to deliver power competitively lower than that of Fossil Fuels.

Even the production of LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) and LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) as well as Hydrogen must be considered a part of the Energy mix along with the use of the Bloom Energy Server as stated in the article “Bloom Energy unveils Fuel cell of the future”, published Thursday February 25, 9:01 am ET by Glenn Chapman, AFP, Yahoo News!.

But the development of the Bio-Fuels Sector has its own stumbling block in the fact that it takes Energy to make Bio-Fuel. So unless a suitable means can be found to make Bio-Fuels the growing of Agricultural Crops would not be competitive with Fossil Fuel.

This has to be achieved in a one step process that is not Energy intensive or at least uses off-the-grid power, such as:

1.      Solar/Wind Power
2.      Bio-Fuels, be it E85, Anhydrous Ethanol, Bio-Diesel, LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas)
3.      LNG
4.      Hydrogen produced from Seawater

Fossil Fuels can themselves be a source of the Bio-Fuels, which is very possible, as E85, Anhydrous Ethanol, Bio-Diesel, LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) and LNG and Hydrogen can be produced from Petroleum, with the help of genetically modified Bacteria in factory scale operations.

This too, will also take another four (4) years to become a practical, efficient and economically feasible reality, whether or not economy-of-scale is applied.

Telecom Providers, especially, among the FDI’s, albeit not squealing, are nonetheless interested in increasing their profitability by reducing Energy, but are not so readily inclined to spending additional money on buying Solar/Wind installations, as it does not contribute to making revenue directly, merely to saving on expenditure on Electricity.

Because of the consistent profit stream from offering Voice Services, be it Postpaid Contract, Prepaid (Postpaid in Jamaica), Pay-as-you-go (Prepaid in Jamaica) and Data Services, be it Capped or Unlimited Wired or Wireless Broadband plus the occasional VAS (Value Added Service), Telecom Providers, being of the “old School” of profit making, are less inclined and risk-averse to spend on experimentation or even basic market research.

Most employees and management are intoxicated by the higher-than-normal lifestyle being afforded by the offering of Telecom Providers services and benefits derived thereof, from expensive overprices smart phones (the Blackberry Bold is not a smart” phone to have, FYI).

This is a reason why most employees stay despite being stuck in a lemming-like existence of following orders and “going with the flow”, an innovation devoid culture of maintenance to keep the Switch going at all costs, as the revenue stream is guaranteed. This is owing to the fact that they are a Utility and as such are necessary for Customers to go about their normal daily lives and as such, will always be around and hence a steady source of employment.

Surprisingly therefore, that when I came across this story, I nearly spilled my Bourbon (the biscuit, not the wine….. I am what Americans refer to as a “tee-totaller”): a contractor that does Cell Tower Maintenance as well as being a Mobile Telecom Provider named Core Communications is experimenting in a three (3) month trail with Wind Power for power resale to the local Power Utility Company, in no better place than Southern California.

Core Communications is one odd little Black Foot Ferret. Core Communications are slated to begin in 2010 a trial run with a wind startup named Helix Wind, that specializes in designing small Vertical-axis Wind Turbines (VWT) that can generate Electricity even in wind speeds as low as 10 km/h as stated in the article “Powering cell phone towers with wind”, published November 11, 2009 11:35 AM PST by Candace Lombardi, CNET News - Green Tech.

Their concept is rather simple: Telecom Provider Core Communications has a lease financing arrangement, similar to car loans as stated in the article “A financial fix for wind turbine outlay”, published August 26, 2009 6:38 AM PDT by Candace Lombardi, CNET News - Green Tech to purchase small Vertical-axis Wind Turbines.

The small Vertical-axis Wind Turbines, which are used to power the Cell Towers and its RBS (Radio Base Station) or BTS (Base Transceiver Equipment), whichever is to your linguistic penchant.

Excess power generated from the powering of the cell site is sold to the Utility companies and is thus able to earn Core Communications revenue, effectively making the investment not only a money saver but also a money turner for the Telecom Provider.

Albeit this test is slated to occur in 2010, with no news of its success, it is good to note that that concept would be very applicable and attractive to Telecom Provider here in Jamaica under a liberalized Energy Sector, as any additional expenditure that earns revenue for the Telecom Provider would make them more inclined to go Solar/Wind, as saving on expenditure.

As far as Telecom Operators are concerned, is not real cash, being as it is not money coming directly coming from customers and may easily be gobble up by project overruns, ironically due to the inefficiencies of the management and their lack of interest in perusing a philosophy of efficiency at every stage of work.

 This is from the Fuel that vehicles spent on generators to work conditions in an office and the use of air conditioning that may be wasteful – and then constantly monitoring such Energy waste, often seen by management as tedious.

Power consumption and ambient temperature can be tracked by using a Network of Smart Meters and Smart Thermostats integrated into a so-called Smart Grid that wirelessly send information back to a Central Server using the EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) as described in the article “Smart Meter coming to a Utility near you”, published November 2, 2009 7:32 AM PST by Martin LaMonica CNET News - Green Tech

A trend that is expected to increase in 2015AD to US$200 billion as predicted in the article “Smart-grid spending to hit US$200 billion by 2015”, published December 28, 2009 7:15 AM PST by Lance Whitney CNET News - Green Tech.

Additionally, there is an interesting spin-off from such a massive migration of indoor Switch Equipment and MGW and outdoor Nodes for the Node B’s or BTS (Base Transceiver Stations) by Telecom Provider’s LIME and Telecom Provider CLARO, otherwise known as RBS (Remote Base Station) by Telecom Provider Digicel from Power from the Power Utility Company which in this case is JPS Co to a Renewable Energy System!

In that scenario Solar Panels/Wind Turbine combination would be Primary Power and Bloom Energy Servers as Secondary Power with JPS Power as Tertiary Power Source, it would significantly lower costs in terms of Power and Telecom Provider could return to the days of providing “all-you-can-eat” uncapped Data Plans.

Alternative Energy is the Telecom Provider “strong tower” and is an investment in the long run that benefits the Telecom Provider with stable clean and fully auditable power usage that reduces costs which can be easily passed on to the consumer…………

To be or not to be, that is the question indeed, Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them……….in this case the Achilles Heel of Telecom Providers, that being the usage of Power Utility Company’s Electricity and taking the Telecom Provider completely off the Grid.
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