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Free Energy Resources in Lebanon Essay Sample

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Abstract

Although countries of the south are generally endowed with abundant renewable and non-renewable energy resources, Lebanon is among the few countries that have neither of these in the Middle East. Therefore it is imperative that renewable energy resources in Lebanon are looked at as an alternative energy resource. This paper will review energy resources in Lebanon and the availability of RE sources. With technology advancements coupled with available energy resources, solar thermal energy will be looked at as RE (Houri Ahmad, Pg.65). The country unfortunately has no known fossil fuel resources. Most of her energy needs are met with imports of petroleum products besides the relatively modest hydroelectricity resources it generates

Status of energy sector in Lebanon

Lebanon official agencies have not been able to produce a comprehensive and basic detailed data about different sectors of the government although the ministry of commerce has some data on the same.  The country lacks all the major traditional sources of energy and accordingly, 99 percent of the country's energy needs are imported. The main energy company Electricité du Liban, EDL, imports about $500 million worth of fuel yearly. (ALMEE. State of the energy in Lebanon). The energy balance in Lebanon shows that diesel, electricity and gasoline account for 90 percent of the total energy consumption.

The massive energy imports have resulted in a $2.4 billion debt. Demand for energy in the country has now exceeded supply despite large government investments in energy. Lack of local oil resources have generated heavy reliance on oil imports and thus resulted in heavy drain of foreign currency.        

Lebanon is a country located on the eastern side of the Mediterranean covering an area of 10,452 Km2 with an average population of 4 million people. The country has a $4010 per capita GN1 with a national debt of $30 billion. There are significant pressures to meet the high population with a large energy demand. As Lebanon strives to meet its populace's energy demand, an approach based on RE and energy efficiency will be the solution. The country has an advantage as it is located in a sunny area of about 2200 kWh/m2 per year.  This shows that an investment in this line can easily offset the need to expand power generation capacity (Houri Ahmad, Pg.65).

Just last year, 2010, the water and energy minister addressed a forum in Beirut in March where he reiterated the government's commitment to regulate changes to facilitate the introduction of renewable energy in the country. He expressed optimism that the country will reach goal of generating 12 percent of its electricity through renewable resources by the year 2020. He reiterated that the government has already allocated $9 million dollars for renewable energy resources. He further said that the country has begun a study to determine the best locations in the country for wind power generation (Moskowitz Ira)

Non renewable energy sources in Lebanon

Non-renewable energy resources are those energy resources that are extracted from the earth. These include liquids, gases and solids that cannot be replenished after exhaustion. Examples are; fossil fuels (from hydrocarbons like coal, fuel oil and natural gas). Lebanon although not an oil producing country, is located in proximity to oil producing countries. Lebanon had a refinery centre for crude oil exported from Saudi Arabia and Iraq which stopped working in the 1975 civil war.

Renewable Energy Resources

Renewable energy is that energy which comes from natural resources and naturally does replenish and will not run out. This energy comes from; the sun, rain, tides & waves, biomass and geothermal heat.

Solar energy resources

Lebanon is located at 33°N and 35°E with varying altitudes from sea level to 3000 m. average daily solar insolation varies between 2-6 kWh/m2. A study by the engineering department in saint Joseph University shows that 70 percent of residential houses sue electricity to heat water, 25 percent use diesel and 5 percent use gas, wood or solar. This shows that solar energy should be aided to decrease the use of electricity in heating water for home use. (ALMEE Pg.15)

From available data on solar energy in Lebanon both in the coastal and interior zones, if solar energy is harnessed, the country stands to benefit from solar heating. But with most towns connected to the electric grid, solar PV in its current state seem not to be economical and cannot therefore compete with electricity supplied with oil based methods.  

Thus due to its abundant solar resources and the maturity of the solar thermal industry, Lebanon stands to greatly benefit from utilizing solar thermal industry and especially that of solar water heating. The country has rarely used solar energy to generate electricity but savings from the use of solar thermal collectors are many. There are plans to implement solar thermal collectors but local acceptance has neither been due to government support nor published research.  (ALMEE Pg. 11).

The graph below shows that despite a small use of SHW shower in Lebanon, there is a remarkable increase in the stalled and use for SHW system installations from the year 2000-2010

Tides and waves

The country has 225 Km of waterfront, relatively long when compared to its area. But with a closed Mediterranean sea, there are variations in tides and small waves for most parts of the year. With an immature technology on harnessing the tides and waves, these sources is unsuitable for harnessing.

Geothermal energy

There are two sites that have been identified which have some economic value near the Syrian border at the town of Sammaqiye near an active volcanic area. A well dug here in the 1970s showed that area has a 70ºC hot water at 550 m and erupted to 30 m above the ground. The other site is off the Tyre show in the southern part at a depth of 60 m above sea level (Houri Ahmad, Pg.65-66).

Hydropower

Although located in a water deficient region, Lebanon has enough water resources. There are several hydropower plants that have been installed as others are expected to be built. But the share of hydropower to the overall electricity generation is low at 5 percent. But unfortunately this share is decreasing as Lebanon is getting less rains and as some of the water is used for irrigation.  New dams built on major rivers will increase available water. Plans are also underway to construct 21 dams at a cost of $547 million designed for water flow control and electricity generation. This source of RE is an economic alternative although with some environmental concern (Houri Ahmad, Pg.66).

Lebanon needs to maximize its benefits from the existing water resources. Feasibility studies show that new dams can be built at Chabrough and Bisri with a combined capacity of 128 million cubic meters of water. Other feasibility studies are ongoing to ascertain whether building of more dams for energy production is viable. 

Biomass

Although with little forest cover, Lebanon has other significant biomass sources like the municipal solid waste. If harnessed, the 400 tons of MSW will yield 30 percent of electricity needs. The alternative is though not considered and thus not viable due to lack of emission controls and strong resistance from locals and NGOs. But for Lebanon with little natural resources, MSW could be very valuable if raw materials are recovered and recycled. Data shows that biogas generation from sewer and farm waste has the potential of offsetting 2.8 percent of the electric needs (Houri Ahmad, Pg.66).

Wind

Especially in the Northern side, there is evidence to support the presence of strong sustained winds. Based on the tree deformation index, there are speeds of up-to 7-8 m/sec in some selected sites. But attempts of measuring wind have been done in small scale due to absence of a wind map. With growth of the competitive wind energy daily, wind installation of turbines preceded by a good monitoring plan seems to be the way for the future. But with a strongly regulated electricity generation and distribution monopolized by EDL, the government needs to promote and install wind farms and connect them to the grid (Houri Ahmad, Pg.66).

Conclusion

The paper has discussed the renewable and non-renewable energy sector in Lebanon. We have seen that Lebanon is a country that is not well endowed with fossil fuels in the Middle East. The paper has reviewed the status of the energy sector in Lebanon and the RE viable projects that can be undertaken by the government. We have considered the entire major RE sources and their viability. Several of the RE resources in Lebanon have been investigated from the solar energy resources, tides & waves, geothermal energy, hydropower, biomass and wind. The paper has suggested the best RE projects that can be undertaken to reduce overreliance on imported energy power.  

The government should also make RE systems a priority for the Lebanese government. Clearly with less than 2 percent of renewable energy coming mainly from hydropower, the situation confirms that RE is not a priority for the government. The Energy Steering Committee, ESC, should co-ordinate those activities that relate to the conservation of energy rather than importing of energy.

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