Too many hydropower plants

The participants at the annual workshop of the Vietnam River Network (VRN) held on December 16 spent much time talking about the Dong Nai river valley and the Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A hydropower plant projects, which have been the hot topics in the public.

5000 people have signed a petition to the government so far, expressing their protest against the two hydropower plant projects. Dr Nguyen Huynh Thuat, who was an officer of the Nam Cat Tien National Park, once sent a letter to the President, requesting to cancel the two hydropower plant projects.

However, Dong Nai River is not the only victim of the hydropower plants, which have been developing so rapidly in recent years.

Dao Trong Tu, a member of the VRN Consultancy Team said that hydropower plants have been built on all 13 big river networks. Hydropower plants have also been built on small rivers as well.

“A thick network of hydropower plants has been set up on the Dong Nai river system, which has cut the rivers into pieces. If two more plants, 6 and 6A are built here as well, this would severely affect the whole region,” Tu warned.

Dr Le Anh Tuan, a climate change and water resource expert, also said that the existence of too many hydropower plants has cut the river networks into artificial water reservoirs. The hydrological characteristics of the river system and the inborn seasonal variation and water storage have been broken.

Scientists have agreed that it’s necessary to reconsider the development of the hydropower plants on the river network in Vietnam. They have warned that hydropower plants have been mushrooming which would damage nature. The Dong Nai river system alone has to bear 20 power plants already

Losers bigger than gains

It is now a growing tendency that wind or solar energy projects have been developed instead of hydropower plants. Vietnamese scientists have warned that in the current conditions, when the climate change shows unpredictable moves, if Vietnam continues devastating forests to build hydropower plants, this would cause immeasurable consequences.

The existing hydropower plants have seriously damaged the environment around which will never be rehabilitated. Thousands of hectares of forests in Vietnam have been chopped down to give place to power plants.

Dr. Le Tu Trinh, an environment expert, said the investor of the Tri An hydropower plant predicted that the sphere of influences of the plant would be some 210 square meters. Meanwhile, in fact, thousands of square kilometers have been severely impacted.

“If the Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A are implemented, they would have impacts not only on 300 hectares as reported, but the area to be affected would be much higher,” Trinh said.

“After Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A, the hydropower plant project in the Ba Ba National Park, the one on Serepok River would also be implemented. If so, a vast area of forests and a lot of values would be lost,” he warned.

The Japanese government has agreed to fund the Mekong green decade project with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia being the beneficiaries. However, Trinh said, if Vietnam continues devastating forests to build hydropower plants, it is highly possible that the funding would be reconsidered.

Sài Gòn Tiếp Thị - December 20, 2012

When will Vietnam’s wind power industry thrive ?

The opportunity to develop the wind power industry in Vietnam has never been clearer than now. But without the right policy and implementation, the potential is just potential and the "golden opportunity" will pass.

Initial lessons learned from the first wind power projects in Vietnam are very useful.

Wind power data - national assets

The first 1,300 wind turbines are damaged or do not work effectively, mainly because of lacking experience and lack of thorough investigation of resources, climate, weather characteristics.

Many countries in the world that go ahead on the path of wind power development have left the precious experience that Vietnam can learn from but we do not know, know a little or cannot effectively use it that experience, especially in implementing leverage policies to develop wind power.

The numbers of wind potential and the good comments of when Vietnam’s wind potential is compared to that of other countries in the region--offered by the responsible organizations at home and abroad, are good.

The simulation data by the World Bank and the domestic surveys have shown the potential of wind power in Vietnam. They also identify the most promising areas for the construction of wind power plants – the coast and the southern Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta.

However, the existing data is not sufficient, or is still missing.

Unlike most other types of energy such as thermal power and nuclear power, the biggest drawback of wind energy is its strong dependence on weather conditions and wind regimes. But Vietnam still lack data and a detailed map of the distribution of wind on the whole territory.

Lack of the above parameters, determining the location for wind power plants will not be accurate and the diagram of network of wind power farms will not be optimized.

This affects the selection of the optimal size of the blades, the turbine column, the connectivity between factories in different areas and the connection between wind power plants and other types of power plants (such as diesel) or with the national grid.

Thus, the selection of a place for building wind farms, in addition to the wind regime at the site itself, should be calculated based on other elements in the connection network and other factors.

For example, the land factor: A wind farm needs a large area. Just a wind turbine with a capacity of about 3MW occupies from 2,000 to 3,000m2, so its rotor can operate optimally.

The environmental factor: Wind farms can make noise during operation; turbines break the natural landscape and the radio signal interference. Therefore, a reasonable distance to the residential areas, resorts should be taken into account in the construction of wind power farms.

The above things have shown the necessity of building the national data on wind power. In the short term, it is necessary to investigate, collect, collate and systematize the wind data and based on it to build the wind maps, including offshore, near-shore wind energy and maps of different climate areas.

The organization of surveys and build wind map database should be implemented by the State with the participation of relevant agencies and scientists, which comply with strict requirements to serve construction of the wind power technology.

This database is national assets, which is ready for use by relevant agencies and to sell to domestic and foreign investors, to help them shorten the time of investment.

Leverage policy

Many wind power projects in the country are still at a standstill because of the lack of a full database on wind and a rational policy for wind power development.

In order to overcome the above shortcomings, many experts suggested building the law on renewable energy to create a legal basis for this activity.

At the same time, they also proposed to issue a synchronous policy system to create the favorable conditions to the development of wind power, to the formation of the wind power technology market, to mobilize investment capital from various economic sectors, to improve demand and expand the scope of the use of wind power.

Experience from many countries such as Germany and the Nordic countries shows that to develop wind power, it is necessary to develop a national program with support policies for wind power to encourage the production of cheap domestic equipment.

The price subsidy policy should be the most important thing. That policy directs at consumers to ensure reasonable price for wind power. That policy also makes sure that the investors will have reasonable interest, especially in the early stages.

Fully implementing the above leverage policies will help turn Vietnam’s potentials and "golden opportunity" into reality. Otherwise, Vietnam will be the country that is rich in wind, not wind power.

By Tran Minh - VietNamNet Bridge -