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

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Back to Scoraig

Finally, it was time for me to return to Scoraig to check up on the data monitoring equipment we had installed back in April. A busy summer meant that this visit was long overdue and it felt good to be back on Scoraig.

“The gubbins”

Our first turbine, Lawrence Glass’ machine, was installed on a really exposed site on the far south-western tip of the peninsula – ideal for performance testing. It had received a lot of high wind speeds in the last four months and if anything, we actually had too much data! Here’s the curve we produced for this machine:

Lawrence Glass’ 1.8m wind turbine as measured form April-September 2012

The second turbine, John & Debbie’s over in Achmore, was unfortunately not doing so well. There are a lot of trees around and the turbulence they induce has meant that we cannot use the majority of the data. In addition to this, the tower is bent above the top guys, causing the furling behaviour of the machine to be quite dependant on the wind direction. The power curve below shows the data sorted by wind direction in 10 degree intervals and its clear to see that it furls much sooner in some wind directions than others. Hugh made an attempt to straighten the tower, but it wasn’t as easy as we thought as straightening it in one plane actually made it worse in the other!

Hugh will hopefully work his magic on John & Debbie’s tower over the next week or so and we will continue logging there for the next few months. We’re all done at Lawrence’s place though, so we moved the met mast and data-logger over to Aggie’s turbine, which also has a nice, exposed site so we should expect some solid data to come through from here over the next few months.

Hugh wiring up the data logger into its new home at Aggie’s wind turbine.