Developer of Chile’s 2,750-MW Aysen offers small hydro to locals

The developer of the proposed five-plant, 2,750-MW Aysen hydroelectric complex proposes building six small hydro projects totaling 26.8 MW to provide cheap electricity and jobs to Chile’s isolated Aysen Region surrounding its big projects.

Developer Centrales Hidroelectricas de Aysen S.A. (HidroAysen), a joint venture of electricity generators Endesa Chile and Colbun, announced the proposal July 3, saying it would fulfill a commitment to reduce electricity costs to the host region by the maximum amount possible.

HidroAysen General Manager Hernan Salazar said the company proposes building or upgrading six small hydropower projects with an investment of US$85 million to provide 26.85 MW of cheaper electricity. The company also is considering four wind plants totaling 550 kW.

Salazar said the proposal would be presented to regulators for approval even as the developer pursues additional feasibility and technical analyses.

HidroAysen said electricity costs in Aysen have been high because regional electrical systems are small and isolated, with low numbers of customers on the systems and a dependence on expensive imported fuels for generation.

Salazar said HidroAysen would act as power producer for the plants, without taking part in electricity transmission or distribution. He said 97 percent of the energy generated would be supplied to residential customers with the remaining 3 percent going to small companies.

He said the projects’ generation of more than 150 gigawatt-hours annually would displace 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide otherwise produced by thermal plants. He said to make the projects viable, HidroAysen would apply to certify the projects to sell carbon dioxide emissions reduction credits under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism.

The proposed small projects include: 24-MW Puerto Aysen, combining two 12-MW powerhouses; 1-MW General Carrera; 1-MW Puerto Cisnes; 200-kW Caleta Tortel, the augmentation of capacity of an existing plant; 100-kW Lago Verde, rehabilitation of an existing plant; and 550-kW Melinka.

Approvals sought for 2,750-MW Aysen complex

HidroAysen continues to pursue environmental and other approvals for its 2,750-MW Aysen complex. In February, it said the price tag to build the mega-project has risen US$500 million to about US$3 billion, not including the US$2 billion additional cost to build a 1,300-mile transmission line to connect the plants to Chile’s central electricity grid. (HNN 2/18/08)

The company plans to build two power plants on the Baker River, 600-MW Baker 1 and 360-MW Baker 2, and three plants on the Pascua River, 460-MW Pascua 1, 770-MW Pascua 2.1, and 500-MW Pascua 2.2. The plants are expected to contribute a total of 18,430 gigawatt-hours per year to Chile’s central power grid.

The consortium hopes to start construction on the first of the five HidroAysen plants in the first half of 2009, and the last in 2017. The first plant is due to be producing power in 2013.

In April, Chile’s environment minister launched a national river basin integrated management strategy, focusing initially on pilot management programs for the Baker, Rapel, and Copiapo River basins. (HNN 4/17/08)

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