Chasing Mirages

Tag: solar photovoltaic

Langkawi Island, Malaysia

by on Sep.27, 2011, under Posts

Because I have such a huge backlog of pictures and experiences to share, and I don’t have time to make such involved galleries as I did for Inle Lake and Bagan, I’m going to try something new – a lightning round of posts.

For each location that I visited, I’ll create a post including 5 pictures or less, choosing the sights and experiences that most deeply impressed me.  The only exceptions I’ll make are for stories with an environmental theme.  In those cases I may include more than 5 pictures.

Here’s the first one – Langkawi Island, Malaysia.  Langkawi is located on the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia.  It’s a well an over-developed island paradise, with extensive white-sand beaches, waterfalls, mountains, and plenty of clear blue seas for watersports.  As soon as you get off the ferry, rent a Kia hatchback or a scooter and the island is yours!

The other great thing about Langkawi is that it’s the only place in Malaysia where alcohol is duty free.

The first picture, above, shows  a viewing bridge at the top of the Langkawi cable car.  From the bridge I could see much of the island as well as the limitless blue sea.  But the best part of standing on the bridge wasn’t the view.  It was closing my eyes and letting the sound and touch of the sea breeze overwhelm my senses, feeling as though I was hovering in between that opening in the mountains, high above the canyon below.

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Betel Nut, Malaysia

by on May.19, 2011, under Posts

This isn’t a food porn site, nor will it ever be, but I couldn’t resist posting this picture of a delicious coconut I had in Bukit Mertajam (大山腳), a city in Penang State, Malaysia.  Just look at that thick juicy, layer of smooth, wet coconut flesh.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.
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Solar (and wind) power in rural China – Danba, Sichuan

by on Nov.03, 2010, under Posts

I visited Sichuan recently and was fortunate enough to spend a few days in a mountainous Tibetan region called Danba (丹巴), aka the Valley of Beauties (美人谷).  Good looking people of both sexes did appear at an unusual rate in this area.  I think it has something to do with the clean water, clean air, abundant food resources, and generally positive outlook on life enjoyed by these people.  But that’s just a gut feeling.  I’m sure there are scientific and historical explanations.

I saw several different types of solar and wind power usage in Danba.  The county seat, a typical (though relatively clean), uninteresting, modern little town with cars and paved roads, had some interesting light posts:

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Powering rural China with the sun

by on Sep.03, 2010, under Posts


The extra cost of solar power can sometimes be more acceptable in rural applications than in urban areas because traditional sources of power also cost more to deploy in rural areas.  Solar photovoltaic technology places the energy source adjacent to where it is needed, minimizing the need for transmission and distribution lines which are particularly expensive and cost-inefficient to build out to remote locations.

The cost of solar PV also stays relatively constant at varying scales, unlike thermal power plants which are only cost-effective above a certain size.  This means that, on a per kilowatt hour basis, a household photovoltaic system doesn’t cost much more to install and operate than a utility-sized system.  Also, photovoltaic systems are self-contained, generally needing no inputs and generating no waste, meaning that fuel transportation costs are avoided.

Below are a few solar photovoltaic applications I’ve seen in rural and semi-rural China.  Unfortunately, most are just boring street lighting, but they do illustrate China’s push to widely deploy solar photovoltaic technology.

This one shows a road winding up a mountain northwest of Beijing called Feng huang ling (凤凰岭).

How many solar-powered streetlamps can you find?  Click on the picture and then click on the image again to see a full-size version.   I count…

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First hike of spring

by on Mar.27, 2010, under Posts

Note:  Thanks to all who participated in the bio-processor contest.  I will spend some time researching all of your leads and announce the winner within 2 weeks.

Last weekend, I went hiking for the first time in Beijing.  The trip was organized through a free on-line forum called 綠野, which literally means “Green Wild”.  Unfortunately, the hike was neither green nor wild.  The buds of spring have yet to appear in Beijing, and the mountains on which we hiked, though about 30  kilometers (18 miles) from downtown, still put us in view of Beijing’s urban sprawl.

Please note that I am definitely not ragging on Green Wild.  The hike was well-organized and I met some interesting people.  The existence of groups like Green Wild reflects a growing interest in wilderness appreciation and preservation among professional urban Chinese, and that’s a great thing.  I’m sure that I’ll post more about Green Wild activities in the future.

As you may have read in the news, last weekend welcomed the first major sandstorm of the year in Beijing.  These sandstorms are a yearly occurrence in northern China, significantly worsening over the past several decades as deforestation and poor land management resulted in rapid desertification.  China’s government started tackling this problem in earnest through reforestation and re-introduction of wild grasses and shrubbery about ten years ago, and Beijingers thought that the worst was behind them after the last two years passed with no major sandstorms.  There has been progress, but last weekend’s storm showed clearly that the war is not over.

When I woke up on Saturday, the day of the hike, the sky was yellower than my urine after a hard day of digging ditches.  I’m now kicking myself for not taking a picture.  At the time, I was more concerned that the hike would be canceled.  But the Green Wild forum did not announce a cancellation, so I set off into the maelstrom. (continue reading…)

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