To Beirut, for a conference on energy. There’s much to learn.
The first surprise is that, in the Middle East, it’s not affluent Lebanese, but poor Palestinian homes that have the most roof-mounted solar water-heaters: more than 80 per cent of Palestinian households owe their hot water to these primitive devices. Why? Palestine’s energy minister observes that while the Israelis can cut off his country’s electricity, even the Israeli Defence Force can’t stop the sun rising every day.
So that’s why the Palestinians lead in hot showers.
Lebanon is quite a windy place. Fittingly, therefore, the Chinese company Goldwind presents the conference with its 1.5 megawatt (MW) wind turbines. Goldwind bought its impressive Permanent Magnet Direct Drive (PMDD) technology from the German company VENSYS. Direct drive means no need for high-friction gearboxes, giving PMDD turbines extra clout. They’ve been installed in some numbers near Shady Oaks, Illinois, and also, interestingly enough, in Iran. Now the company wants to make 10MW turbines for use offshore.
Goldwind’s ambition forms a welcome, high-tech counterpoint to greenish speakers who wax lyrical about ‘pico-wind’ – turbines that generate not 1,500kW, like Goldwind’s, but a risible 1kW (other speakers advocated solar panels rated at 50 to 100kW, which is still measly). Still, it’s refreshing to hear a Lebanese from the floor eloquently indict a chic, refurbished, energy-efficient house for its price tag: a cool $3million. Involving no fewer than 26 people making insulation materials by hand and spreading energy-consumption ‘awareness’ among supposedly ignorant Lebanese, the house had won an award for environmental correctness – given out, inevitably, by Brits. Compared with the pictures of the house under construction, the video Goldwind plays of workers erecting a turbine appeared to show far fewer people doing a lot more good.