Bariloche – logging data and observing the knowledge transfer process

Few cities in the world are situated in such picturesque locations as Bariloche. Surrounded by the Nahuel Huapi National Park, San Carlos de Bariloche is also home to the National Parks Administration, who have expressed a keen interest in using wind power for their park ranger cabins throughout the country. What is more, any solution that can improve the living conditions and reduce fuel costs for the park rangers can then also be replicated for others living within the boundaries of the National Parks, many of whom are of indigenous heritage and in the South, predominantly from the Mapuche nation.Their traditional lands are often very far from the current population centres, meaning that grid connection simply isn’t an option in many cases. Small diesel/petrol generators and kerosene lamps are the default solution for light and electricity, however in many cases, renewable energy can provide cheaper electricity that is available 24 hours a day.

Nestled between the Cordillera de los Andes and lake Nahuel Huapi, Bariloche enjoys a spectacular location

Nestled between the Cordillera de los Andes and lake Nahuel Huapi, Bariloche enjoys a spectacular location

I first visited Bariloche back in May, when Wind Empowerment members, 500rpm, invited me to participate in their project that began back in September 2013 with a participatory wind turbine construction course in a local technical school. 500rpm take advantage of Argentina’s extended technical education, that allows secondary school pupils to specialise in technical subjects at regional centres, such as Colegio Tecnologico del Sur in Bariloche. They use this basic technical knowledge and the existing infrastructure (workshop kitted out with basic tools) to build capacity for wind turbine construction, installation and maintenance. Last year, they guided students and teachers at the school through the process of building a 2.4m Piggott turbine. When I arrived in May, they were planning to install the machine at the headquarters of the National Parks Administration, just down the hill with an ideal lake-front site. To help finance the project, they also offered a 5-day evening class for anybody with a keen interest in small wind to learn with a combination of theoretical and practical methods, including participation in the installation alongside the school pupils as an optional extra.

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The turbine was installed at the headquarters of the National Parks Administration, as they’ve installed a few wind turbines at park ranger cabins, but they’ve had a lot of problems with both the wind resource and maintenance. As a result, they were looking for a turbine that is more robust and that the park rangers would be able to maintain themselves, rather than wait for an engineer from the manufacturer to come all the way out to their remote cabin. Of course, they were also interested in how much power the machine would produce and perhaps more importantly, how this would vary over time (i.e. does it produce as much after a year or two as it did on the day that it was installed?). As a result, I asked Tom Dixon of V3 Power to build an Arduino-based logger capable of measuring wind speed/direction, battery voltage and current. In order to give a full understanding of the energy flow within the system, current is measured in 3 places: coming in from the turbine, going out to the dump load and going out to the loads. More details about this logger and the data it has recorded will be available here soon.

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The Arduino-based logger built by Tom Dixon of V3 Power is built around the DataDuino – a remote logger with a real time clock that uses the Arduino Uno chip to measure and record data to an SD card. The DataDuino was designed by Matt Little of RE Innovation, who recently designed a new shield to allow it to record data from two anemometers and a wind vane and operate for up to a year on three D-cell batteries. It just so happens that Colegio Tecnologico del Sur has a specialism in electronics and telecommunications, so were already working with the Arduino, as it is an open-source chip that enables people to write and share their own code freely amongst a growing community of users. I asked Matt to write a step by step to guide to building one of these stand-alone wind resource loggers, so that I could return to Colegio Tecnologico del Sur this September and run a participatory workshop on the construction and testing of such a logger.

I ran the workshop as a one-off, one day event, with 17 students from 5th and 6th grade. I started with a half hour introduction to why its important to measure the wind resource, then handed out the instructions and kits of parts to three separate groups of students and once each group had turned these into a working logger, they took them outside to record some real wind. The day went remarkably smoothly, as the kids knew even more than I did about the Arduino itself, so it really was just a case of handing them the materials and watching them go!

Download the resources I used here:

Matt Little explains all about the wind resource logger on his blog and as it is an open-source technology, the code and even the PCB masks are also available to download.

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Daniel Jarmillo attended the theory/practical course run by 500rpm here in Bariloche back in May because he has recently returned to his ancestral lands in the mountains around an hour away from the city. However, despite the national grid already running just a few kilometres away, the government has a policy of encouraging first nations people to move into town, so that they can provide them with basic services (such as electricity) much more cost effectively. As a result, Daniel’s community of Tambo Baez relies on candles, battery powered radios and torches and a portable diesel/petrol generator for power tools and incandescent lightbulbs.

Daniel is interested in renewable energy to provide cheaper, cleaner power that is available 24 hours a day. Solar is an option, but the community is located in a steep valley, meaning that the hours of direct sunlight are significantly reduced. Wind is an option, as the valley looks out onto a lake, so if the wind blows off/onshore at this part of the lake, its possible that the valley could be a corridor for the wind. However, its also possible that its windy on the hilltops nearby, but that the valley itself is sheltered. Pico-scale hydro is on the cards, as a number of small streams run down into the valley.

We were able to make some rough estimates of head and flow rate to determine the hydro resource and Daniel will continue doing these once a month or so to find out how it varies throughout the year. I also left a stand-alone wind resource logger with Daniel, so that he could measure the wind resource available at various points within Tambo Baez. Together with an estimate of the solar resource, Daniel will be able to work out the best combination of renewable resources to meet his and his neighbours demand and therefore whether building and installing a wind turbine really is a good idea.

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From the end of earth

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.

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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.

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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!

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Download the full presentation from UNPA Rio Gallegos and San Julian in PPT or PDF.

See the article written about the event at UNPA in San Julian here:

UNPA UASJ article

Picking up the pieces in Los Gigantes

I visited Los Gigantes back in May, when we installed a 2.4kW Piggott turbine that had been built at a training course run in nearby Córdoba. We also installed an arduino based datalogger – see previous post.

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Unfortunately, the tower of the turbine that our sensors were installed on fell down a few weeks ago, so I arrived to find the anemometers and wind vane broken beyond repair. What is more, the new wifi enabled logger and extra current sensor failed to arrive in time before I left, so the planned upgrade also wasn’t possible. However, all was not lost and we were able to cannibalise one of the wind resource measurement kits that Matt Little had built for me and install a new anemometer on the tower of the new Piggott turbine, “El Pampero”. As a result, we were able to leave the system logging everything apart from wind direction.

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El gran viaje patagónico

Today I begin my seven week journey through Patagonia to continue my case study research into the electrification of rural areas with small wind turbines.

Why Patagonia? The map bellow answers this question perfectly – the wind resource is simply incredible. After seeing so many small wind turbines installed in places that simply don’t have enough wind in other parts of the world, I really want to see what factors influence the viability of the technology in a place where the wind resource is not in question.

3tier_5km_global_wind_speed PATAGONIA-01

Here are some of the things I’ll be up to over the next seven weeks:

6th-8th August – Los Gigantes, Córdoba, Argentina. During my previous visit to Patagonia in May, we installed an Arduino-based logger at the Los Gigantes rural school, at the same time as a 2.4m Piggott turbine. The logger is currently recording to an SD card, but we will be upgrading it to send data wirelessly over the internet. We decided to mount the anemometer and wind vane on the taller tower of the wind turbine that was already installed here, however this tower decided to fall down a few weeks ago. So, along with the upgrade, we’ll also be picking up the pieces of the sensors.

9th-23rd August – The Falkland Islands, also known as Las Malvinas. Although the environmental conditions are very similar to much of Southern Patagonia, the war between Argentina and the UK in the 1980s created a political barrier between the islands and the rest of the continent, meaning that the social and political factors that enable and constrain the development of small wind power are very different here than on the mainland.

24th-27th August – UNPA, Argentina and UMAG, Chile. Two of the most active universities in the development of small scale wind power in Southern Patagonia.

29th August – 3rd Sept (TBC) – Cerro Gorro Frigio, Chubut, Argentina. A rural community with links to EWB/ISF (Engineers Without Borders/Ingeniería Sin Fronteras) Patagonia. Small wind turbines were installed here by a government programme, but have since fallen into disrepair.

Patagonia map

4th-6th Sept (TBC) – CREE (Regional Centre for Wind Power), Rawson, Chubut, Argentina. CREE has been instrumental in the establishement of wind power a key player in the installation of over 1,500 small wind turbines in the Argentinian province of Chubut.

7th-13th September – Cholila, Chubut, Argentina. Wind Empowerment members, 500rpm, will be running a participatory wind turbine construction course at a rural school set up by the foundation Cruzada Patagonica. The school was set up to provide education to the children of the sheep farmers who live out in the desert to the East of the Andes. Many of the sheep farmers already have small wind turbines installed at their homes by a government programme, however the vast majority are out of service as access to maintenance services is simply not available in many places. 500rpm hope that this course will help the pupils understand the technology better, so that they can fix simple failures themselves and ultimately build replacements using the Piggott design, which offers users the opportunity to perform almost all maintenance themselves.

14th-21st September – Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentina. 500rpm are running a follow-up to their extremely popular theory/practical course at the National Parks HQ. During my previous visit to Patagonia, we installed a 2.4m Piggott turbine and during this week, we will install a prototype Arduino based datalogger to measure its performance. There is the potential of installing further turbines at park ranger cabins in National Parks across Argentina, as well as the homes of the people living within the National Park boundaries, many of whom are from the Mapuche first nation and either live without electricity or occasionally make use of a petrol/diesel generator when funds are available for fuel.

22nd-26th September – Buenos Aires, Argentina. Interviews with wind power experts and running a session on establishing infrastructure for maintenance services in the National Industrial Technology Institute’s (INTI) annual small wind manufacturers’ workshop (TBC).

First data available from Los Gigantes, Argentina

The first data from the datalogging system installed in the rural school of Los Gigantes in the Argentinian province of Córdoba is now available. The datalogger is an open source design based on the arduino platform and uses the DataDuino board developed by Matt Little of RE Innovation. This unit is a prototype designed and manufactured by Tom Dixon of V3 Power and is capable of measuring:

  • Current coming in from:
    • The existing PV array
    • The existing Eolux wind turbine
    • The newly installed Piggott wind turbine
  • Current going out to:
    • The existing inverter
    • The newly installed inverter
  • Battery voltage
  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction

This development of this open source logger design is an ongoing project, with the installation of 3 further prototype energy loggers and 5 prototype wind resource loggers planned in the next few months. Stay tuned for more information!

Time series plot of PV, Eolux wind and Piggot wind generation, wind speed and inverter power draws.

Time series plot of PV, Eolux wind and Piggot wind generation, wind speed and inverter power draws.