On April 28, 2009, the St. Kitts and Nevis Democrat, a newspaper published in Nevis at that time, reported that the West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd. was issued a Geothermal Resource Concession by the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) and signed a 25 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Nevis Electricity Company Ltd. The Geothermal Resource Concession is for a renewable 25 year term and grants West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd. (WIPN) the right to develop and produce electricity from the geothermal resources on (or under) Nevis.
In that 2009 article, it was reported that Kerry McDonald, CEO of West Indies Power (Nevis) Ltd., said “West Indies Power will now be able to start building the geothermal power plants that will supply Nevis and the other islands in the northern Caribbean with low cost, reliable, renewable, clean energy for the foreseeable future.”
Nevis plans to use its geothermal resources to generate electricity which could power air conditioning systems. Hot water could fuel cool air in resort hotels. As the IADB reported in 2013, tourism is the reliable artery that feeds the Nevis economy and hotels on the island consume a stunning amount of electricity powered mostly by oil with limited wind-generated power.
Hot Water :: Cool Air
People have been tapping into geothermal energy for cooking and heating forever. Settlements near geyser fields made good sense to Stone Age ancestors. Think of geothermal as steam power sourced from Earth’s interior. The thermal energy is drawn from beneath Earth’s crust, at various distances below the surface. Jules Verne’s novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth” spins a story about traveling on the hot rivers of the surface deep into the earth’s molten rivers called magma.
Volcanic areas produce reservoirs of steam and hot water. In Iceland, steam is tapped for residential heat and hot water. Steam geysers are for visitors to enjoy in remote areas of Iceland, as at Yellowstone National Park in the USA and the Valley of the Geysers north of Zhupanovo on the Pacific coast of the Kamchatka peninsula in Siberia.
One of my an indelible travel memories is listening to a guy on the beach at Playa Manuel Antonio, in Quepos, Costa Rica in late December, 1981. Travelers from France, Canada, Asia, the USA and locals from San Jose were gathered at the nightly campfire and sipping on Heineken green stubbies. He told our spellbound group about working in [somewhere in the Middle East] assembling grenades that would be shipped to Iraq via Israel. This was during the Iran-Iraq War. The work was through a sub-contractor and well paid, enough to fund his flight to San Jose from [that factory place] and months of living on $10 a day which, at the time, covered beachside rustic lodging, excellent meals, beverages and even bus rides to the capital city.
At another beach in Costa Rica, I believe it was Playa Samara, there was a Canadian fellow who worked as a gold miner during the warm season up in the Yukon or NWT and spent his winters in Central America. He said gold mining was one of the worst jobs in the world, coughed violently to prove it, then tapped another Marlboro from the red pack. The villas, cabanas, swimming pools and restaurants depicted on tourism websites in 2016 did not exist at Playa Samara in 1981-1982.
And who could forget Max, the French-Canadian chopping every day at a massive tree stump on the shoreline which he shaped into a throne facing the water?
Playa Manuel Antonio
Other folks enjoying the low-key, sustainable lifestyle in Costa Rica back before the tourist masses changed Costa Rica’s coasts forever financed their Winter travel by working in Alaska’s salmon canning factories. They headed down the Pacific Plate to trade savings gleaned during double-shift work all summer for relaxing months of winter sunshine on the Pacific Coast of Mexico or Costa Rica. At the time, many of the other Central American countries were too dangerous for nomads because of civil wars and external paramilitary interventions like the illegal activities paid for by American taxpayers through the nefarious acts by US government officials and their myrmidons in the Iran-Contra scandal.
Another memorable encounter was the terrifying hostel owner at Simanindo on Samosir Island in Lake Toba, Sumatra. He tried to imprison my friend and I in his very scary hostel. As a precaution, I always ask to see the room before agreeing to rent a room. As we walked through the dim rabbit warren of dirty cement-floored stall-like spaces, I noticed the rooms had peep-holes and spotted English phrases scratched on the walls that indicated previous “guests” had been prisoners. We beat a determined path to the exit and chatted tensely with the owner until he reluctantly moved aside and let us leave. Was this guy renting rooms in the town jail or extorting money from hapless backpackers?
We hiked at top speed for more than an hour. In the dark, we set up the tent in a cow pasture. In the morning, the kind lady-farmer invited us to have coffee and bananas at her airy house.
Local map of Lake Toba and Samosir Island. Simanindo is on the north-east coast of Samosir Is.
Update: China’s Grand Project, The Economist August 5, 2017 p. 49-50.
In 2013, Zhengzhou, a business and logistics center in Central China, became the starting point for rail transport service to Hamburg, Germany and other European ports. The trip is a 6,436 mile (10,214-kilometer) run taking 15 to 18 days — twice as fast as shipping goods by sea.
China manufactures products for the world. We all know that. And it imports tons of materials and mineral resources. Trade connections between China and the major markets of Europe and North America are essential for global economic prosperity.
No one can overlook the importance of railroad infrastructure and the challenges of distance in historical economic advancement. If a country can’t get its goods to a robust marketplace with money, the economy doesn’t grow. Ship, truck and airplane transport are all part of the modern trade and transport equation, but rail is often the cheapest way to ship goods overland.
China was slow to build its rail system, but it is now third largest in the world. During the past few decades, China has made lightening strides to improve its rail networks for passengers and freight. Some analysts believe the extensive new rail infrastructure may have been built too fast, given the problems along the Beijing to Tibet line.
The Mag-Lev rail connecter from Shanghai airport to the city’s terrific subway is a marvel, priced for tourists from the western hemisphere and wealthy Chinese. I also traveled on other Chinese railroads promoted as high speed, which were not.
Why Ship by Rail? Why Now?
Maritime routes from Central China to Northern Europe go through the Suez Canal, because despite global warming and climate change, shipping on a great circle route over the North Pole isn’t a viable option yet. According to the information graphic, the China to Northern Europe sea route is one of the heaviest travelled routes in the world. It also goes right through pirate zone near the Horn of Africa. The Suez Canal and eastern Mediterranean, last time I checked, have issues of potential instability.
This land route from China to Northern Europe saves potentially 80 % of the cost compared with air shipments, and it’s about $489 cheaper on average, compared with road transportation. DB Schenker manages the transportation and logistics.
Loading gauges, couplings, container markings, and much more are encoded by the International Union of Railways, an organization created in 1922 to standardize rail transport industry practices. There are 82 active members including from Europe, Russia, China, Kazakhstan and others. The U.S. is an associate member.
With a route that travels through five or more countries, there are challenges along the route. The railroad containers have to be shifted by crane twice:
From Chinese rolling stock to the Russian style broad gauge line at the Kazakhstan-China border at Alashankou, in northeastern China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Second transfer to standard gauge at the Polish-Belarusian border.
Hewlett Packard was an early customer of the new rail connection. They booked the route for a major shipment of H-P computers manufactured in China destined to ship from Holland across the Atlantic Ocean to the US.
Here is a video of train route that the H-P computers traveled to Rotterdam, including crane transfer of containers from one railway track to a different gauge rail track.
I’m looking forward to the day passenger trains run the route!