food / travel

Venice And Cruise Ships, Saving An Awkward Romance

Docked in Venice, MSC Divina carries 4,000 passengers
Docked in Venice, MSC Divina carries 4,000 passengers
Teodoro Chiarelli

VENICE — The delicate balance between preserving the beauty of a place and allowing a fruitful tourist business is particularly tricky when it comes to the question of cruise ships in Venice.

The Italian government has announced that beginning in 2015, large cruise ships (those weighing more than 96,000 tons) will be banned from St. Mark’s basin and the Giudecca Canal. The new regulations will also include new restrictions on mid-sized ships of at least 40,000 tons.

Flooding in St. Mark's Square — Photo: kikmoyoo

This follows long-running protests from activists who claim that the corrosive smog and vibrations from the traffic are damaging the singularly scenic lagoon city. Currently, the largest ships can pass within 300 meters of St. Mark's Square.

Last week, however, a project that could find a way to salvage the cruise business in the city was proposed by former vice mayor of the city, Cesare De Piccoli. Working in collaboration with Duferco steel, the "Venis Cruise 2.0" project proposes a new terminal, designed with floating and removable docks in front of the MOSE flood gates, which are meant to protect Venice from its increasing problem of flooding.

Up to five ships would be able to moor there and passengers and goods would then be transported to Venice via water. This plan would take two years to build, at an estimated cost of 128 million euros.

Gondolas in 1960 — Photo: Navnetmitt

"The implementation of the new infrastructure," says Duferco's Antonio Gozzi, "is a long-term response to keep Venice in its primary role in the European cruise industry, preserving the Maritime Station, and maybe increasing jobs in the area."

Looking further into the details, the pontoon that the cruise ships would moor on will be located in front of the MOSE bulkheads, 22 meters from the northern Cavallino dam. Accessibility to the terminal is safe — even when the bulkheads are raised during high tides.

A narrow barrier island protects the Lagoon of Venice from storm waves in the northern Adriatic, and breakwaters protect inlets to the lagoon — Photo: NASA

The new terminal would consist of a single wharf, 940 meters wide and 34 meters long, and a connecting structure will ensure emergency services are connected with the mainland. Other vessels and boats will be able to pass through a drawbridge in the central part of the structure itself.

A rendering of the proposed pontoon — Source: Venis Cruise 2.0

The project must be approved by the Italian government, which no doubt will consider how to keep the visitors coming to Venice, and how to keep Venice...Venice.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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