UPDATE – China firm mobilizes to build Belize’s 18-MW Vaca

China’s SinoHydro Corp. is mobilizing to begin construction of the recently approved 18-MW Vaca hydroelectric project for Belize Electric Co. Ltd. (BECOL).

BECOL, a unit of Fortis Inc. of Canada, announced May 30 it received all major approvals for construction of the project on the Macal River in Belize. (HNN 5/31/07) BECOL also signed a 50-year agreement with Belize Electricity Ltd., another Fortis unit, to sell power from the US$52.5 million project beginning in 2009.

SinoHydro said its Eleventh Project Bureau won a US$38.5 million contract to build the project in 33 months. Work includes a 60-meter-tall roller-compacted-concrete dam. The project involves 300,000 cubic meters of main excavation, 230,000 cubic meters of concrete, and 1,800 tons of reinforcing steel.

SinoHydro said it also built BECOL’s 7.3-MW Chalillo project, completed upstream on the Macal in 2005.

�The Vaca facility represents the final phase of a three-phase development on the Macal River to maximize its hydroelectric potential,� Fortis President Stan Marshall said. �The existing upstream Chalillo and Mollejon hydroelectric facilities have benefited the customers of Belize Electricity and the country of Belize by helping to stabilize electricity rates and by increasing reliability of energy supply.�

The run-of-river Vaca plant is to increase Macal River energy production by about 80 gigawatt-hours to 240 GWh per year. The project is to have minimal environmental effects as most of its storage will be provided by the upstream Chalillo Reservoir.

The US$30 million Chalillo project has a 9.5 square kilometer reservoir. In addition to providing 30 GWh annually, that project — formally called the Macal River Upstream Storage Facility (MRUSF) — increased generation of the downstream 25-MW Mollejon project, to 135 GWh from 80 GWh.

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