Normal Seasonal Fluctuations in Panama’s Rainfall “electicity supply crisis”

Wingnuts and Morons Argue Over Normal Seasonal Fluctuations in Panama’s Rainfall

Thursday, May 09 2013 @ 01:23 PM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Views: 1
By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com – The news this week is being dominated by the ongoing energy crisis caused by the delay in the arrival of the seasonal rains – Panama’s famous “rainy season.” Simply put, it has not started raining yet in Panama. The water levels behind three of Panama’s primary dams used to generate hydroelectric power have fallen to critical levels, and they are now approaching the minimal levels required for operation. If the water levels keep falling, then these power production facilities will go offline.
About 50% of Panama’s power comes from hydroelectric power. The government of Panama has taken measures this week to limit the drain on the national power grid, such as shutting down schools, forcing businesses to close at night, and changing the work hours for public and government employees, all in an attempt to reduce demand and to make the little water remaining behind those dams last as long as possible. These efforts by the Panamanian government, in conjunction with the declaration of a State of Emergency in four provinces related to the drought and its impact on cattle and agriculture, caught the attention of the world’s media outlets. However, unfortunately some of them started to quote an incorrect statistic, saying that 60% of Panama’s power comes from hydroelectric generation. That is not correct. The percentage has been climbing in recent years. Not too long ago it was in the high 40% range. During the recent debates and protests over new hydroelectric projects the number most often quoted was about 50% – and that’s what I’m using right now. I think if all projects currently under construction were finished and brought online, then we would be at 60%. But right now it’s about 50%.

Links to global warming? Don’t be stupid. Links to deforestation? Equally dumb. The earth spins around the sun, on it’s axis, and tilted. The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) meanders North and South every year. And every year it passes over Panama. In November and early December the ITCZ passes over our heads, moving towards the South, often causing massive flooding and mudslides. Just check the “weather” section of this website and you can look back at the historical reporting on flooding and mudslides during those months. This period of time marks the end of the rainy season, and the start of the dry season (known locally as “verano” or summer).

Then – like clockwork – the ITCZ moves back over our heads, this time moving from the South towards the North, in the April and May timeframe. Normally the “rainy season” starts on about 15 April or so, marked by the return of the ITCZ. There have been all sorts of examples of the rainy season returning with a vengeance, causing flooding and mudslides in April and May. However there have also been other recent examples of the start of the rainy season being delayed, just like now. See this article from May 2008 for a recent comparison. The administration of Martin Torrijos faced a very similar crisis. They made similar decisions, closed things down, handed out low wattage fluorescent light bulbs, and took actions to limit consumption. Then the rains started. Then the crisis was averted.

And then as a result of those lessons learned, they did a very smart thing. The government of Panama took steps to greatly expand the hydroelectric capacity in the country. Back then. In 2008. Most of the projects under construction right now were approved back then and granted permits and concessions, because the government came to the correct conclusion that the country does not have enough capacity to produce electricity. Forget about excess capacity – there’s barely enough new capacity coming online to keep pace with the expansion of the economy.

Consider this – the (relatively new) Albrook Mall uses more electricity every day than the entire City of David. A few years ago it was not there. How many new malls have been built in recent years? New buildings? New hotels? Apartments? Shopping centers? All of those things are sucking from the pipe. The power has to come from somewhere. If there were more hydroelectric facilities feeding the grid (overall greater capacity to feed demand) then the water levels behind all of those dams would be falling at a slower rate in case of a crisis such as this current drought. If you only have one or two facilities then when they go dry, the power gets shut off. Having eight or ten spreads it out.

And Panama is taking steps to diversify with wind power, solar, and natural gas, as supplemental power sources to the traditional bunker and coal fired plants, and hydropower. These things are also being built, and are not yet online and producing. Why are they being built now? Because of the similar crisis we faced in 2008.

As for the rumor that Panama is selling power to Costa Rica – nope. That’s bullshit. The cause driven idiots who oppose new hydroelectric projects in Chiriqui for environmental reasons are spreading those lies – saying bogus bullshit to further promote their cause. The next time you get one of these environmental idiots in your sights for long enough to ask them the hard questions, just squeeze until they squeal. Normally they wander off in a huff, because the reality described by facts, science, math and economics simply don’t align very well with their simplistic (green) view of the world. It’s nice that Indians want to live in peace and harmony next to a gently flowing stream. However the rest of the (rapidly expanding) country needs the power. Wants versus needs. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Just ask Spock.

Anyway – /rant. The simple fact is that in Panama sometimes the ITCZ doesn’t show up on time, and there can be droughts in May. At the same time, in some years the ITCZ shows up with a vengeance and we can be up to our asses in water in the month of May. These variations are normal, and natural. They are not a new or even unexpected phenomenon. Panama has been working as hard as possible to expand the nation’s power producing capacity (in spite of the environmental wingnuts) over the past several years, and has barely been able to keep pace with the expansion of the economy which has been growing at about 10% per year, seemingly forever. (Check math now.) Yup. Panama’s economy grew by 51.9% from 2007 – 2012. That is a MASSIVE expansion, creating new demands for electrical power. Add a short drought and a delay to the arrival of the ITCZ, and the result is rationing and rolling blackouts.

In a few weeks the rains will come, guaranteed. The lakes and reservoirs behind those dams will fill back up. The crisis will have been averted. And then something else will happen, and people will forget all about it, just like they did after the 2008 event. But in the meantime, conserve as much electricity as possible. Just keep the beer cold – because that’s important. Everything else can wait.

Copyright 2013 Panama-Guide.com.

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2 Responses to “Normal Seasonal Fluctuations in Panama’s Rainfall “electicity supply crisis””

  1. Bill King says:

    Don Winners post about Jerry Hall are fabricated by his own imagination, Jerry Hall has won a defamation of Character suit against Don Winner for $350,000 if he should ever return to the USA Mr. Hall will demand payment and proceed to collect. Mr. Winner is known for his stories such as Wild Bill, he was never a part of that investigation he was part of the problem helping Wild Bill get rid of the properties on Don Winners web site. Mr. Winner should be avoided at all costs first he can spell as a writer should and second of all you just have to read his blog to understand that insanity must run in his family. It is apparent This all stemmed from Jerry Hall getting two of Don Winners co-hearts arrested and sent to Prison 1) Tom McMurrain and Two Eddie Kahn, that is what has set Don Winner on to Jerry Hall. Jerry Hall killed Don Winners money train…. Sorry Don You really must be poor.

  2. Bill King says:

    Don Winners post about Jerry Hall are fabricated by his own imagination, Jerry Hall has won a defamation of Character suit against Don Winner for $350,000 if he should ever return to the USA Mr. Hall will demand payment and proceed to collect. Mr. Winner is known for his stories such as Wild Bill, he was never a part of that investigation he was part of the problem helping Wild Bill get rid of the properties on Don Winners web site. Mr. Winner should be avoided at all costs first he can’t spell as a writer should and second of all you just have to read his blog to understand that insanity must run in his family. It is apparent This all stemmed from Jerry Hall getting two of Don Winners co-hearts arrested and sent to Prison 1) Tom McMurrain and Two Eddie Kahn, that is what has set Don Winner on to Jerry Hall. Jerry Hall killed Don Winners money train…. Sorry Don You really must be poor.

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