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Small rivers would generate energy in non-interconnected areas of the country

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Small rivers would generate energy in non-interconnected areas of the country

Taken from https://agenciadenoticias.unal.edu.co/detalle/con-pequenos-rios-se-generaria-energia-en-zonas-no-interconectadas-del-pais

With the flow of rivers such as the Orinoco, Apaporis, Meta and Atrato, close to 20,000 gigawatts per hour can be generated, which is almost 40% of the energy that Colombia currently produces. Vichada, Vaupés, Guainía, Guaviare and Chocó, departments with the lowest electricity coverage in the country, would be the greatest beneficiaries.

The Non-Interconnected Zones (ZNI) prevent the population residing in these regions from having access to constant and quality electricity, which affects the quality of life. More than half of the national territory is “disconnected” from the energy system, which is distributed mainly in the Andean region.

“Towards municipalities like San Felipe (Guainía) and Medio Atrato (Chocó), access to electrical infrastructure is little, or almost nil,” adds Julián Andrés Jiménez Toro, a Master’s in Engineering – Hydraulic Resources from the National University of Colombia (UNAL). ) Medellín Headquarters.

In places like those mentioned, diesel plants (which emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide or CO2) are used to have an average energy availability of eight hours a day, which represent high rates.

“Among the causes of this is the low population density and, therefore, the economic risk involved in investing there. However, experiences from other latitudes, such as Southeast Asia, show that once electricity is installed, the regions begin to grow and development is promoted”, notes the magister.

Through mathematical calculations, based on the flow and width of the tributary, and the review of hydrographic maps, the researcher found that the Orinoco, Guaviare, Meta, Tuparro, Tomo, Vichada, Apaporis, Isana, Papunaua, Papurí, Querarí, Tiquié rivers , Taraira, Vaupés, Atabapo, Inírida, Negro Guayabero, Atrato, Baudó and San Juan are suitable for establishing small hydroelectric plants that supply energy to the departments with the least coverage in the country: Vichada, Vaupés, Guainía, Guaviare and Chocó.

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Of the 118 small hydroelectric plants in Colombia, only three are in ZNI: two in Chocó and one in Meta. In these places the terrain is very flat and is not conducive to large hydroelectric dams.

“However, small plants represent a golden opportunity; with them, energy is produced in a sustainable and reliable way, and for these territories that are usually jungle, the generation with ‘hydro’ is the most appropriate ”, he explains.

Another aspect that he took into account was the technology that could be applied. The most common uses Francis turbines, which take advantage of the flow (the natural flow of water), and the Pelton type that take advantage of the head (the fall of water from point A to point B).

According to the magister, there is a newer tool, with a fairly high opportunity cost: the vortex turbine. To understand how they work, let’s think of a whirlpool of water that increases potential and kinetic energy. All of this could be successfully applied to small Colombian rivers, beyond the Magdalena and Cauca.

With its use, the energy available in rivers with flat topography could be used, which is close to 20,000 gigawatts per hour in a year, which is almost 40% of what the country produces at this time.

In relation to the financial issue, he points out that the outlook is also favourable. “The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), an indicator that shows how much energy is produced by total investment, showed that this would be 0.3 dollars per kilowatt/hour, which, if compared to another energy system, is very economical, even more to put a wind turbine or a solar panel”, he highlights.

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At the national level, Law 1715 of 2014 seeks to favor the connection of the ZNI and the implementation of non-conventional energy sources; This allocates state funds that can be used by private companies.

It would be a matter of applying to the calls and remembering that the UN’s seventh Sustainable Development Goal refers to the importance of providing abundant energy with low environmental impact to promote economic growth. “Small hydroelectric plants are an excellent mechanism for this,” he concludes.

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