Ulan Bator, the capital city of Mongolia, has been rated the second most polluted city in the world by the World Bank. Air particle pollution is created when raw coal is burned by many thousands to stay warm in winter. Air pollution was linked to about ten percent of all deaths in the city of over one million residents. Coal power plants and dust also contribute to the very high air pollution levels.
Energy demand in Mongolia is rising by about ten percent each year. Continuing to burn raw coal, and using coal in power plants, is not going to work, so alternatives like wind power are being explored. (Over 80% of Mongolia’s power is now supplied by old coal plants built in the 1970s).
The Salkhit Wind Farm will be coming online soon and has a capacity of 50 MW. General Electric turbines will generate the power, which will meet five percent of the country’s total demand. Mongolia has good wind potential, large open spaces for installations and about 300 days of sunshine each year for solar power as well.
A 300 MW wind farm is being considered in the Gobi Desert, and if it becomes operational, it would meet about 30% of national demand, when there are sufficient winds.
Coal is abundant in Mongolia, so it may seem wrong-headed to transition away from it, but the public health and environmental costs are too high. Another idea which may hasten the shift towards renewables is that of an Asian super grid. This new system could be used to send power from places like Mongolia to population centers throughout Asia.
Image Credit: Public Domain, Wikipedia
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