Minas de Huascachaca, the largest wind power plant in Ecuador

A semi-desert area on the limits of Loja and Azuay, made up of plateaus, with dirt roads and little settled population, is the place where 16 wind turbines will be located in the coming months that will take advantage of the force of the wind to produce wind energy.

This set of wind turbines – each one with heights that will reach 167 meters – makes up the basic infrastructure of what will be the largest wind farm in Ecuador, Minas de Huascachaca.

The wind energy complex, which is expected to start operations in 2021, is located at the foot of the Jubones River, in the San Sebastián de Yuluc parish, territory of the Saraguro canton, on the cantonal border with Santa Isabel, in Azuay. It is designed to generate 50 megawatts (MW) of wind power, enough to power 90,000 homes.

Minas de Huascachaca requires an investment of $ 101 million. It will be added to three other wind farms in Ecuador, the two in Galapagos (San Cristóbal, 2.4 MW; and Baltra, 2.25 MW) and Loja (Villonaco, 16.5 MW)).

The construction of the work began in 2017, but its conception dates back more than a decade.
The first, which was for the construction and adaptation of roads, was awarded in 2017 to a consortium made up of the companies Sinohydro, from China, and Cobra, from Spain. Elecaustro conditioned the contracting for the second phase, estimated at $ 93,474,445, to a financing that had to be managed by the same Chinese-Spanish company until the end of that year. But the companies did not comply and the award was void.

With a consortium formed by the public company Hidroequinoccio (owned by the Prefecture of Pichincha) and the real estate firm Carlos Reyes & Asociados, it was agreed to execute the second phase of the project, in two components: the first, for $ 10.7 million, and the second conditional on a financing of $ 78 million.

But in January 2019, the contract award had to be canceled because the contractor consortium could not get the loan either. The prefect of Pichincha, Paola Pabón, withdrew Hidroequinoccio from that commitment, after making public “serious financial problems” of that company.

Elecaustro managed to finance the project with a loan from the Ecuador Development Bank (BDE), for $ 54 million, approved in March 2019.

These resources were committed to cover the cost of the acquisition, transportation and installation of the 16 wind turbines, as well as the construction of a collector circuit, other access roads and the platforms and foundations.

What is relevant about this energy initiative, according to Borrero, is the use of a renewable source for the production of clean electrical energy, replacing the generation that uses fossil fuels, which pollute the environment.
The sum of the project occurs when the low demand for electricity compared to energy capacity is under discussion in the country, once the so-called emblematic hydroelectric projects came into operation, in addition to the fact that their contribution has not translated into a significant reduction of electricity rates. It is estimated that around 50% of what Ecuador can generate is not used.

Minas de Huascachaca is a project with an old ambition. The pre-feasibility studies began in 2004. The Azuaya prefecture carried out the first measurements on the wind conditions of the site. Elecaustro undertook these studies in 2008. The results of the work defined the generation potential that a wind-powered plant could have.

“This is a low area of ??Santa Isabel and Saraguro, about 1,100 meters above sea level, with strong winds and where there is a chiflon (air current) due to the presence of the Jubones river”, illustrates Borrero.

Consulted by this newspaper, the prefect of Azuay, Yaku Pérez, a specialist in environmental law, states that the place where the project is implemented is an area of ??many winds, which can be exploited. “Hopefully the work will cause the least impact on the surrounding towns. It is always important to have a close relationship with the communities and, above all, to tell them the truth ”, he adds.

On April 29, after an international tender, Elecaustro signed a contract with the Chinese company Dongfang Electric International, for $ 45,680,000. This supplier must manufacture, transport, install, commission and maintain the wind turbines and equipment at the wind farm in Loja.

The energy work is currently 55% complete, according to its builders. $ 59 million is already committed for civil and electrical engineering tasks. The first works consisted of improving access to the nearby parishes Uchucay and Sumaypamba, and the construction of a 50-meter bridge. In execution is the construction of substations and their connecting roads and the laying of a 138 kilovolt electric transmission line.

It remains to make the platforms and foundations for the location of the wind turbine towers. Each of them, with the antlers raised, will reach 167 meters from the ground, according to the builders. In other words, they will be much higher than The Point (137 meters) or La Previsora ??(135 meters) building, in Guayaquil.

The delivery of the equipment will be gradual and, in the same way, its commissioning. According to forecasts, between May and December 2021 the wind turbines will arrive in Ecuador.

For the assembly of the generation devices, it will be necessary to use cranes 100 meters high, with the capacity to move 780 tons of weight, describes Borrero.

“We hope that in October next year the first four generators will be delivering energy to the country, and in January 2022, we would be in full commercial production,” predicts the Elecaustro executive.