This week I’ve travelled from Punta Arenas in the very Southern tip of Chile, up to Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina. I never thought I would be so pleased to see something as simple as tree, but after spending many days driving through the empty desert that covers most of Southern Patagonia, arriving in Comodoro Rivadavia and seeing a big palm tree as I stepped out of the bus station was certainly a sight for sore eyes!
CERE-UMAG, Punta Arenas, Magallanas, Chile
The first stop on my trip was CERE-UMAG: The Centre for Energy Resource Studies at the University of Magallanas. I was pleased to hear from the centre’s director, Humberto Vidal, that the provincial government has recently published its first formal energy policy and that CERE-UMAG has been asked to undertake a detailed evaluation of the energy resources available in the region. Oil and gas is relatively cheap, as there is a lot of production in the region, meaning that renewables have played a relatively small role in the electrification of the region. Fortunately, this looks set to change, as the provincial government have published their first energy policy and have commissioned Humberto Vidal and his team at CERE-UMAG to carry out a detailed feasibility study of energy demand across the region and the resources that are available to meet it. This will then be used to open a public tender for local companies to provide solutions on the ground that match CERE-UMAG’s recommendations.
UNPA, Rio Gallegos, Santa Cruz, Argentina
Shortly after crossing the Argentine border, we arrive at Rio Gallegos, the provincial capital of Santa Cruz. Although the city’s economy is driven primarily by oil, I am here to see one of Argentina’s foremost experts on renewable energy, Rafael Oliva (although his modesty will prevent him from admitting it!). Rafael was already teaching about renewable energy at the National University of Southern Patagonia (UNPA) before I even started studying, so it was an honour to be invited to share the experiences from my research on small wind for rural electrification with his colleagues, the students of his renewable energy course and even some younger students from a local science club.
Unfortunately, the future is not so bright for small wind in Santa Cruz, as although it is probably the windiest province in the entire country (small wind sites with 8m/s annual mean wind speed at 10m are the norm), difficulties with maintaining the 1,500 SWTs installed in neighbouring Chubut have steered the local rural electrification strategy towards a solar only solution.
UNPA, San Julian, Santa Cruz, Argentina
Next on my trip was a surprise visit to another of San Julian’s campuses, this time in San Julian. Despite the last minute addition to the itinerary, the event was remarkably well promoted, with posters up around town and an announcement put out on the local radio. As a result, a mixture of academics, students and the general public all turned up to hear me talk about my experiences with small wind in other countries.
The next day we went to install a datalogger at a newly comissioned test site in San Julian. The system has been designed to take power curve measurements according to the international standards, IEC-61400-12. The entire system was designed and built by Rafael Oliva himself, who has also built the dataloggers used by the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI) at their small wind test site in Neuquén that is usedfor the national small wind certification programme. Unfortunately we couldn’t finish the install as the day before, Rafael burned out one of the circuit boards as we were testing the set up – good to know that it still even happens to the experts, as I was beginning to think that there was no hope for me given the amount of components I’ve set on fire during the last few years!
See the article written about the event at UNPA in San Julian here: