Archive for the ‘Solar’ Category

Foundations of Energy Security for the DPRK: 1990-2009

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The Nautilus Institute has put together an amazing research paper on the DPRK’s energy sector. I cannot understate the value of the quality/quantity of facts/figures/tables in this research.

You can download the PDF here.

I have also added it to my DPRK Economic statistics Page.

Here is the introduction:

Energy demand and supply in general—and, arguably, demand for and supply of electricity in particular—have played a key role in many high-profile issues involving North Korea, and have played and will play a central role in the resolution of the ongoing confrontation between North Korea and much of the international community over the North’s nuclear weapons program. Energy sector issues will continue to be a key to the resolution of the crisis, as underscored by the formation of a Working Group under the Six-Party Talks that was (and nominally, still is) devoted to the issue of energy and economic assistance to the DPRK.

The purpose of this report is to provide policy-makers and other interested parties with an overview of the demand for and supply of the various forms of energy used in the DPRK in six years during the last two decades:

  • 1990, the year before much of the DPRK’s economic and technical support from the Soviet Union was withdrawn;
  • 1996, thought by some to be one of the most meager years of the difficult economic 1990s in the DPRK; and 2000, a year that has been perceived by some observers as a period of modest economic “recovery” in the DPRK, as well as a marker of the period before the start, in late 2002, of a period of renewed political conflict between the DPRK, the United States, and it neighbors in Northeast Asia over the DPRK’s nuclear weapons development program; and
  • 2005, also a year in which observers have again noted an upward trend in some aspects of the DPRK economy, as well as the most recent year for which any published estimates on the DPRK’s energy sector and economy are available.
  • 2008, the last year in which the DPRK received heavy fuel oil from its negotiating partners in the Six-Party talks; and
  • 2009, the most recent year for which we have analyzed the DPRK’s energy sector.
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North Korea at night (2012-9-24)

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Eric T. passes along this amazing satellite photo of the Korean peninsula taken at night on 2012-9-24:

The photo comes from NASA. Click image to see larger version.

When I get some time (maybe this weekend) I will see if I can put names to the lights in North Korea.

Here is the text from the NASA web page:

City lights at night are a fairly reliable indicator of where people live. But this isn’t always the case, and the Korean Peninsula shows why. As of July 2012, South Korea’s population was estimated at roughly 49 million people, and North Korea’s population was estimated at about half that number. But where South Korea is gleaming with city lights, North Korea has hardly any lights at all—just a faint glimmer around Pyongyang.

On September 24, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime view of the Korean Peninsula. This imagery is from the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as gas flares, auroras, wildfires, city lights, and reflected moonlight.

The wide-area image shows the Korean Peninsula, parts of China and Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the Sea of Japan. The white inset box encloses an area showing ship lights in the Yellow Sea. Many of the ships form a line, as if assembling along a watery border.

Following the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War, per-capita income in South Korea rose to about 17 times the per-capital income level of North Korea, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Worldwide, South Korea ranks 12th in electricity production, and 10th in electricity consumption, per 2011 estimates. North Korea ranks 71st in electricity production, and 73rd in electricity consumption, per 2009 estimates.

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DPRK electricity grid

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

UPDATE: On a flight today I was able to translate most of this map.  Interestingly, it shows the incomplete Kumho Light Water Reactor (금호원자력발전소: in yellow on the right) but none of the other nuclear facilities.

ORIGINAL POST: A recent visitor to the DPRK took this picture of a map of the North Korean electricity grid:

See larger version here

This is one of the best maps of the North Korean electricity grid that I have seen (abstract as it is). This will be immensely helpful for my own efforts to map the North Korean electricity grid on Google Earth:

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Chinese lamps popular in DPRK

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo

Chinese-made solar reading lamps are selling like hot cakes in North Korea. According to a North Korean source, the reading lamps sell for 10,000 to 20,000 North Korean won, a price several times the average monthly wage.

The customers are chiefly parents with children preparing for college entrance exams. Due to do the poor power supply, North Korea except for some parts of Pyongyang is plunged into pitch darkness every night, making it impossible to study. The solar-powered reading lamps provide a measure of independence from the power grid.

In the North, background determines if youngsters can enter college, and not all parents can afford to concentrate their energy on their children’s education. But relatively well-to-do families provide tutoring for their children by employing students of prestigious universities, such as Kim Il Sung University or Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, in efforts to prepare their children for college entrance exams.

Read the full article here:
N.Korean Parents ‘Zealous’ About Children’s Education
Choson Ilbo
3/8/2010

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Renewable Energy

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

NCNK Newsletter Vol. 2, Issue 1
January 13, 2009
Download PDF here

A DPRK “Shangri-la” Powered by Solar Electricity
By Victor Hsu

In 1988 Bongsu Church — the first Protestant Church built in Pyongyang since the end of the Korean War — opened its doors for the first time. The following year the Korean Christians Federation asked if my organization, Church World Service, would provide a generator for the brand new church. A generator would enable parishioners to enjoy air conditioning during the hot summer months when the temperature can reach 85 degrees Fahrenheit and above. I suggested to the church officials that we install solar generators from China. However, lacking experience with solar power, they preferred the more familiar diesel-powered generators. But the seeds of interest in alternative sources of energy were just starting to grow. Soon after this exchange I learned that the DPRK was investigating the possibility of using another form of renewable energy — windmills.

I have been visiting the DPRK for two decades in many different capacities, most recently as the DPRK National Director of World Vision International (WVI). Over this time, I have learned, as have many of my colleagues from the United States and around the world, that knowledge-sharing and knowledge transfer enhance the benefits of humanitarian assistance. There is increasing evidence that the DPRK seeks out and appreciates this form of international cooperation.

Since 2000, various technical cooperation and assistance projects have involved NGOs and professional organizations in Europe and North America, especially in the field of agriculture and medicine.

World Vision International (WVI) has been active in DPRK since 1995, when a serious humanitarian crisis hit the country. In 2006, shortly after becoming DPRK National Director at WVI, I suggested to the DPR-Korean American Private Exchange Society (KAPES) that they designate a province where WVI could concentrate its humanitarian interventions. Subsequently, after discussions with the DPRK Mission to the UN, North Hwanghae Province was designated as a World Vision International humanitarian zone, and we were asked to work in Dochi-ri. An ambassador at the DPRK Mission to the UN, Ambassador Han Song Ryol, told me he could envision the province becoming a DPRK Shangri-la!

Dochi-ri is a small sprawling farming community nestled in hilly terrain in Yongtan County, just about a two hours drive south of Pyongyang. A river runs through this community of 12,000 residents and the farmers enjoy a man-made reservoir. This village traditionally grows corn but has begun soybean cultivation as part of the DPRK agricultural program to replace corn with the more nutritious soybean. Like many “ris,” or villages, in the DPRK, Dochi-ri is served by a clinic and a nurse. Itinerant doctors visit the village for non-routine medical interventions. The clinic, the houses, the small primary school and the kindergarten rely on a sporadic electricity supply.

WVI agreed to provide Dochi-ri with an organic fertilizer plant, the first of its kind in the DPRK, a potable water and sanitation system, a bakery and a soymilk processing facility. We also agreed to upgrade the clinic, replace the roofs of the clinic, kindergarten and primary school, and replace the school furniture. All these projects have been completed over the last 2 years, with the exception of the potable water system, which will be finished by mid-2009. The 12, 000 Dochi-ri residents are happy with all of the various renovations, but they are most excited by one innovation: the experiment with solar generators. After careful research and planning among the DPRK partners at the national and local level with the help of a Chinese company, WVI agreed to provide solar generators to the school (5kWh), the clinic (3kWh) and the home of the village engineer (2kWh). These were purchased in China and installed by Chinese technicians.

Chinese technicians and American engineers – the latter coincidentally in Dochi-ri to drill wells and install the water and sanitation system – trained the local people’s committee managers on the use and maintenance of the generators. Our engineers have visited Dochir-ri several times over the past two years after the generators were installed and were happy to respond to all of the villagers’ technical questions. WVI engineers complimented our North Korean partners on the quality of the maintenance. Whenever the solar generator issue comes up in the conversations, our technicians assure the managers that good maintenance of the batteries will ensure at least the minimum of their five-year life span. Our engineers have no doubt that this will be the case given the track record of the DPRK’s technicians. DPRK technicians are known for the meticulousness and thoroughness of their approach to learning.

The village technician’s home with its constant supply of electricity is now the constant envy of the “ri.” In fact, the villagers are requesting WVI to supply each of their homes similar generator. When I visited Dochi-ri in September 2007 the engineer invited the WVI delegation to his home to show us how he is able to have lighting in his house and enjoy TV and music from his CD player. Though he could not speak a word of English, his smiles and a halting “Thank you!” were enough for us to know how the solar panels are making a real difference in the life of this farming community.

A year after the first generators were installed, Dochi-ri villagers determined that they needed a generator to power the water tower for the school. The decision to “go solar” was easy, based on the positive experiences with the first three generators. A fourth solar generator was installed in 2007, and it now provides water for the school. In the past two years, the cost of solar panels has soared, and China is investing heavily in anufacturing them. We hope to see a similar effort to design more powerful, maintenance-free and efficient batteries to enable us to continue to bring solar power to Dochi-ri and other villages in the DPRK.

The experience of the community has been overwhelmingly positive especially with regard to this low-maintenance but highly efficient technology. Now Dochi-ri has ready access to organic fertilizer for its crops, a water sanitation system, an upgraded school, kindergarten and clinic, and bread and soymilk for the children’s lunches. With electricity in the school and clinic, Dochi-ri is beginning to become the Ambassador’s vision of a DPRK Shangri-la!

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