Argentina wind for rural electrification -- Pilot with US technology

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The utility for Argentina's Santa Cruz province, Servicios Públicos Sociedad del Estado (SPSE), is working with the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and National Rural Electrification Co-operative Association on a wind project to serve the 250 inhabitants of Tres Lagos, says SPSE's Carlos Albornoz. The two year hybrid project has battery back-up and will harness winds that blow as hard as 12 m/s from December to February, and 7.5 m/s in the three months before and after that. In the low wind months of June and July diesel will be used for power generation.

SPSE is investing $300,000 in the project and NREL will supply two 60 kW turbines from Atlantic Orient Corp of Vermont. NREL is currently negotiating purchase of the first turbine, which SPSE hopes to have on site at Tres Lagos within two or three months. In the first year of the project, SPSE will install one turbine and monitor its performance and then in the second year add a turbine and seek to lower generation costs as much as possible.

The project is a pilot scheme, Albornoz explains, adding that if successful SPSE would consider expanding wind power generation to cover 2000-3000 inhabitants of the province who, due to their isolation, have very few chances of being connected to either the electricity grid or the natural gas pipeline network.

SPSE started wind measurements in 1997 with the aim of establishing a permanent data base that would be made available to future wind developers. The utility installed, operates and maintains wind measurement equipment to collect data that Southern Patagonia National University will analyse. The university is behind schedule on producing the data reports, Albornoz says, but should have the information ready within a couple of months.

SPSE started a 4 kW wind project at a rural school in Las Vegas in January this year, where it installed five 800 W wind turbines manufactured by Argentine producer Eolux, with regulators and a 4.5 kVa inverter supplied by Trace Engineering, a US company and long time supplier of electric equipment to the wind industry. Argentina's federal investment council (CFI) part financed the project.

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