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Vietnam’s Mekong Delta Will Soon Have its First Wind Farm

But Independent Expert calls Communist Country’s Wind-Energy Plans Unrealistic

HANOI— A Vietnamese company is building what would be the first wind farm in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, with technical assistance from the energy giant General Electric.

Photo by David CongerGeneral Electric has started work on a 16 megawatt, 10-turbine wind farm in the Mekong Delta.

GE announced plans for the ten-turbine farm in July, and GE spokeswoman Adeline Teo said last Friday (Nov. 18) that construction is underway. Teo told Earth Island Journal that she didn’t have details immediately available on when the farm will be operational.

The American company has said the wind farm will produce 16 megawatts of electricity on a site located about 125 miles south of Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a. Saigon). It says the project’s local developer is also planning to build more turbines that would add up to 120 additional megawatts of wind capacity.

Vietnam’s total electricity capacity is about 13,500 megawatts, with roughly a third of the power coming from hydropower and another third from natural gas. GE says the new wind farm will help the country to “resolve” its notorious power shortages.

The farm would also help Vietnam move toward its stated goal of increasing its wind-energy capacity to 1,000 megawatts by 2020 and 6,200 megawatts by 2030. (The current U.S. wind energy capacity, by contrast, is more than 42,000 megawatts.) So far the only wind project in Vietnam’s national grid is a 20-turbine farm that generates about 30 megawatts of electricity.

Ron Steenbergen, an Australia-based renewable energy developer who works in several Asia-Pacific countries, says that although Vietnam’s wind-power plans sound nice, the Communist leadership “won’t follow through on the details.” The bureaucracy is neither “transparent” nor “consistent,” he adds, and the price of domestic renewable power does not yet make building things like wind turbines or biogas generators all that practical from a business standpoint.

Steenbergen says Vietnam should follow the policy example set by the Philippines, a country he says has passed “landmark” legislation designed to create market incentives for renewable energy.  Although the Philippines is struggling to implement related laws, he says, it is at least working to reform its energy grid.

Energy reform may take a while in Vietnam. Although the state-controlled media celebrates the Communist Party’s renewable-energy talking points, Party honchos are dead-set on fossil fuel extraction. From 1990 to 2007, Vietnam’s domestic coal industry went from producing less than five metric tons to nearly 40 metric tons of coal per year despite international research that says the industry causes environmental degradation. And Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is now pushing a plan to build eight nuclear power plants by 2031 despite warnings from Vietnamese scientists that the first plant would sit near the coast and less than 60 miles from a faultline, possibly exposing it to tsunamis.

Dung is apparently unfazed by the specter of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster: In late October, Vietnam and Japan said in a joint statement that they plan to work together on developing nuclear power here. Japan has pledged to provide its energy-starved Southeast Asian neighbor with “technologies that represent the world's highest level of nuclear safety.”

 

Mike Ives is a writer based in Hanoi. His website is: www.mikeivesetc.com.

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Comments

It is typically more esnepxive for you to designate “green” power. It is a method to subsidize the building of more wind power, but in reality wind power is not any more “green” than nuclear power. The intermittent nature of wind power makes it necessary to have some sort of “backup” power, usually gas,  wind uses much more concrete and steel than nuclear power for the same amount of megawatts. Wind power actually has a larger “footprint” than nuclear power, it takes more land to produce the same amount of power. We need to explore all the methods of producing power while minimizing the effect on the environment, this is one way of donating to that cause and voting with your $$.

By Natasa on Tue, September 25, 2012 at 9:20 am

risks it costs over $1 million USD to put up ONE wmlidinl   so.. when you see 500 or 600 or 800 of them in a big field, you can calculate the cost   One of them produces enough electricity to power, what . 5 houses?  of all of the wmlidinls we have ALLLL OVER the us . thousands .. it only accounts for 1% of our energy. also, they are cool, but   it sucks having millions of 400 foot tall wmlidinls dotting the what would otherwise be a beautiful landscape.  also, there are only certain places in the world, certain types of landscapes that are truly conducive of having wmlidinls.  and of those places, most of them have them already.  and even there, they don’t ALL   ALWAYS spin.. when they aren’t spinning, they aren’t producing.benefits .  that’s 1% less coal that we have to burn.  but realistically, there doesn’t HAVE to be ANY coal burned at this point.  it could all be nuclear.  meltdowns are very very very very very very very very very very very unlikely.  the only reason they’ve ever had one was because the staff there didn’t keep up with the equipment because they didn’t feel they had to.. and of course there was a meltdown. The problem is the waste it produces. germany subsidizes solar power they allow the sale of solar energy by the public.  because of that, there are TONS AND TONS AND TONS of solar panels all over the place, and about 46% of their energy COMES from solar   whereas 2% of the US’s power comes from solar.  problem is, if it’s dark, it’s not producing   there are ways to convertt water into electricity, but governments won’t allow it.  sea water could be filtered, have electrolites added, hydrolicized to an “unstable” liquid, and burned by machines that generate electricity   there’s an over abundance of sea water, and hell the level is getting higher each year is it not?    the only biproduct of such a thing would be atomized water not co2.

By Dorene on Tue, September 25, 2012 at 9:18 am

Nuclear engergy for a country as rich in other forms of energy as Viet Nam is one of those pipe dreams of “modernity means having X.” Geologically, Viet Nam is among the least suitable countries to have nuclear, while they have ample opportunity for other forms of energy.

Give it another Fukushima in Russia and a bit more democracy there, and all the contracts saying “we take back all the spent nuclear fuel” will be rescinded. And then what for a country like Vietnam?

By Thomas Jandl on Thu, November 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Although most of what I discussed with the interviewer is accurate in terms of context, I never once referred to the Communist Leadership nor the Communist Country in our interview.

I stand by the comments that Vietnam, as in many countries at a similar stage of economic development, has difficulties translating good concepts into deliverable business models but this refers to the business and regulatory environments in the country, not just the politics.

Private sector investment, whether for renewable energy or other resource assets, craves consistency and transparency to allow effective decision-making and financial commitments.  If Vietnam as a country (not just the political context) can provide this, then private sector investments will follow and I hope this will be the case.

By Ron Steenbergen on Tue, November 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm

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