Geodesign Session 5 Road Map

As the demand for freshwater and energy increases in San Diego County and Northern Baja, the fresh water supply continues to shrink while energy generation remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Due to these opposing trends in supply and demand, it becomes increasingly imperative to identify solutions that move these communities to their preferred state in which they are largely reliant on renewable energy and use water sustainably. Large-scale energy solutions include wind power, one of the must abundant sources of energy in these regions. Many companies have already begun to take advantage of this abundance but it is essential that they expand their existing wind farms or develop new wind farms. It is important to install turbines where the potential is the greatest such as along the mountain ranges of Northern Baja and uninhabited portions of the Sierra California Mountain Range.              

The most promising source of energy in the regions of San Diego County and Northern Baja is solar power. For the many years, California has led the way in solar power capacity, but there still remains enough solar potential in the eastern region of San Diego County to power all of Southern California and Northern Baja. Similar to the necessary improvements for wind power, more solar farms must be installed in this eastern region where there lies the most solar potential. Cooperation between San Diego County and Northern Baja would be mutually beneficial and would move these regions toward their ideal states. While Northern Baja has undeveloped land and differing policies which expedite the installment of plants, many monetary incentives for renewable projects exist in California. But, it is imperative that installments are made soon due to the fact that these incentives may soon be taken away.

Small-scale energy solutions include rooftop solar for the San Diego region, easily constructed solar water heaters for Northern Baja, and self-installable household improvements such as upgraded instillation for both regions. Although numerous residential energy options are available, many homeowners believe some of the options are overly expensive or inadequate for a certain lifestyle. Many of these beliefs are misconceptions and it is up to the local governments, utilities, and interested companies to educate the public on such matters.

There are several techniques, both large and small scale, which will be effective in providing the necessary water to endure the current drought. One of the most promising sources of fresh water that is utilized in the Middle East is desalination. Both San Diego and Northern Baja have similar climates to the Middle East and a similar lack of water. Desalination promises to provide a large amount of formerly non-potable water. A second technique of producing fresh water is recycling grey water using reverse osmosis and several other processes to cleanse and redistribute water. A final large-scale option to conserve water is utilizing new innovations, such as the black orbs that were recently released into the L.A. reservoir. In addition to reducing evaporation by up to 90%, these black orbs provide potential health benefits.

Small-scale water reuse can be just as useful as large sale reuse if implanted correctly. Small-scale grey water recycling systems can save up to 40% of water consumed in a household. This is an effective method, although initially expensive. A good way to reduce the cost of grey water systems is to share grey water systems between multiple buildings which breaks up the costs of installation and increases the effectiveness of the system. Grey water has proven to be effective in reducing water consumption and is the most promising small-scale process in decreasing the effects of the drought.

Similar to the regions previously discussed, Brazil has issues relating to energy and water production and consumption. The majority of the energy grid in Brazil is powered by Hydro Power Plants (60%) which produce a renewable source of energy. However, this energy is not sustainable because most of the dams are constructed in the Amazon Rainforest and cause negative environmental and social impact. An important goal for Brazil is to address the need to diversify the sources of energy that power the grid. The population of Brazil is increasing, as is the demand for energy. Four sources of energy that are sustainable, renewable, and very available in Brazil are: wind, biomass, solar, and small hydropower. Brazil has the potential to produce 140 GW of wind energy but currently only generates 6.45 GW from this source. The coastal areas of northeast, south, and southeastern Brazil contain the most wind potential while having the highest concentration of population. The wind power in these areas is capable of generating all the power demanded by these inhabitants. Furthermore, Brazil has a great potential for solar energy as well as many silicon deposits, which are a source of one of the main materials required to construct solar panels. Solar power generation is a technology that is underutilized in Brazil; just 0.01% of the electric energy in Brazil comes from this source. In contrast, many areas in Brazil are well suited for solar farm construction. Another important point to analyze is the total cost of each technology. The net costs of wind and biomass are comparable with the total cost of hydro. One way to increase the renewable energy generation is by creating incentive programs. There is currently a program in Brazil called ProInfa which incentivizes diversifying the Brazilian energy grid and increasing security in the power supply. Additionally, this program provides discounts for the transmission of power from renewable sources. It is important to instate more incentives similar to ProInfa to incentivize the switch to renewable energy.

While greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation are substantially decreasing, Brazil’s increasing consumption of energy continues to raise overall emissions. The transportation sector, which is largely composed of automobiles, is accountable for nearly half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Due to the large influence this sector plays on climate change, it will be increasingly important to monitor this sector closely in the coming years. The system is negatively affected by poorly diversified modes of transportation, lack of investments, and traffic jams. Waterways and railroads transport more energy efficient fleets than roads. This opportunity for improved efficiency leads to more cost effective options for the long term. The quality of Brazil’s overall infrastructure is ranked lower than a hundred countries due to the fact that Brazil is investing a small fraction of its GDP in its transportation systems. Large traffic jams could be overcome by investing more in subway lines, rapid bus transit, and a light rail system. According to the United Nations, metro and light rail can be initially costly but monetarily beneficial in the long term. Additionally, interconnecting the modes of transportation would increase the effectiveness of the transportation system. Finally, Brazil must incentivize the use of biofuel by reducing relating taxes, refurbish old sugarcane plantations, raise the blend mix for biodiesel, and letting the market regulate the price of gasoline and diesel to reflect the real competition between them.

Brazil is a prime example of a country where the amount of water that could be provided to the public due to abundant supply is not reflected in the amount of water that is accessible. The increased demands for fresh water in southeastern urban centers and the reduced supply of water in the northeast make sustainable solutions ever more necessary. In this context of water scarcity, a roadmap formed with an emphasis on Geodesign can provide the key to supplying clean water to the inhabitants of Brazil. In a country with widely diversified natural, geographic, and economic parameters, both small and large-scale solutions bring promising returns. While analyzing the chronic drought in the southeast, solutions such as investment in river transportation will prove beneficial. Additionally, the construction of desalination plants combined with wind power generation is an excellent practice when considering the issues of water scarcity with the abundance of wind potential. For urban centers, an effective small-scale solution is to install rainwater capture systems for houses as well as commercial buildings. On a national scale, the most feasible option is to change wasteful irrigation methods which are responsible for the highest percentage of water waste in the country. Israel is an example of how successful the use of drip irrigation can be, even in an arid desert. Also, urban centers such as São Paulo could decrease their water waste by fixing or replacing water pipelines. In conclusion, both small and large-scale solutions will be affective in moving Brazil towards increased utilization of its natural resources.

 

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Geodesign team

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