Geopolitics

France's Hollande Gets And Gives Boost In Parliamentary Election

Worldcrunch

LIBERATION (France)

PARIS - On the wave of the solid popularity of newly installed French President François Hollande, left-wing parties look to be headed for a clear majority after Sunday's first round of parliamentary elections.

First estimates give the Left -- led by Hollande's Socialist Party -- 47% of the vote, in front of Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP, with 35%, and the far-right National Front with 13-14%, according to Libération. The second round of parliamentary elections will be held next Sunday, with top vote-getters in each district facing off.

The Socialists needs 289 out of 577 seats for an absolute majority. The left-wing alliance is poised to garner between 275 and 329 seats, to which it hopes to add 8-18 green MP's (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts) and 13-20 far-left MP's (Front de Gauche).

Conservative party UMP is poised to lose it majority, but should be able to keep from 210 to 270 parliamentary seats.

National Front leader Marine LePen won more than 42% of the vote in her district in northern France, putting her in a strong position to enter Parliament. Still, record low voter turnout (around 60%) translated into a disappointing national showing for the far-right, which was unable to match Le Pen's 18-point performance in the first round of the presidential election in late April.

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Green

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

Xinhua/ZUMA

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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