Environmental, Latin America, News, Small Hydro

Hydroelectric-solar microgrid powering operations in Patagonia National Park

A run-of-river hydroelectric power station, photovoltaic installation and battery storage system have been combined to provide facilities in the Patagonia National Park with electricity from renewable energy sources, according to a press release from Tesvolt.

The park, an important nature conservation project, was established by the founder of North Face, Douglas Tompkins, and his wife Kristine, previously chief executive officer of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. The aim of their foundation, Tompkins Conservation, is to rewild the region after decades of heavy overgrazing and desertification.

Patagonia National Park in Argentina and Chile encompasses over 300,000 hectares of grassland plateaus, forests, wetlands and alpine regions. It is located an enormous distance from the nearest public utility grid. The Estancia Valle Chacabuco sustainable hostel, a restaurant, camping sites, hiking trails, and an information center and museum allow tourists to immerse themselves in nature and take a vacation with minimum environmental impact. To date, the power requirements of the park’s facilities have been provided by diesel generators – an expensive and environmentally damaging solution.

“Combining run-of-the-river hydroelectric power and a photovoltaic installation is technically very demanding,” explains Gonzalo Rodriguez, engineer at the Patagonian installation company SyR Energía, who planned and executed the project. To achieve a total output of 115 kilowatts peak (kWp), two hydraulic turbines were combined with a solar system, both with AC coupling. The lithium-ion battery storage units have a capacity of 144 kWh.

In winter and spring, the Patagonian rivers are swollen by heavy rainfall and snowmelt from the Andes. The two micro-turbines convert the energy from the water into electricity. In summer, the water level drops significantly and the required electricity is then supplied by the photovoltaic installation. Excess electricity is temporarily stored in the battery storage systems from German manufacturer Tesvolt.

“We are very excited about the construction of the most advanced hydroelectric-solar microgrid in Chile which will continue to provide clean power for the park for many years to come. This alternative energy system minimizes the park’s CO2 footprint and therefore contributes to the fight against climate change,” says Carolina Morgado, executive director of Tompkins Conservation Chile.

Tesvolt specializes in battery storage systems for trade and industry. The company produces lithium storage systems with prismatic battery cells from Samsung SDI based on nickel manganese cobalt oxide.