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Hydroelectric-solar-lithium-ion microgrid marks successful first year at Patagonia National Park

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 10:34 -- Paul Crompton

A “run-of-the-river” hydroelectric power station, photovoltaic installation, and lithium-ion battery storage system have been successfully used to deliver power to facilities in the Patagonia National Park.

The project uses two lithium-ion battery storage units with a combined capacity of 144kWh— from German firm Tesvolt— coupled to two hydraulic turbines and a solar system, both with AC coupling, to achieve a total output of 115kWp.

The power requirements of the park’s facilities were previously provided by diesel generators.

Patagonian installation company SyR Energía planned and executed the project.

Gonzalo Rodriguez (pictured), engineer at SyR Energía, said: “Combining run-of-the-river hydroelectric power and a photovoltaic installation is technically very demanding.

“In winter and spring, the Patagonian rivers are swollen by heavy rainfall and snowmelt from the Andes. The two micro-turbines convert the energy from the water into electricity. 

“In summer, the water level in the rivers drops significantly and the required electricity is then supplied by the photovoltaic installation. Excess electricity is temporarily stored in the battery storage systems.

“This has paid off. The installation has now been running without no problems at all for exactly one year.”

The park is being ‘rewilded’— after decades of heavy overgrazing and desertification— by Tompkins Conservation, a foundation created by the founder of North Face, Douglas Tompkins, and his wife Kristine, previously CEO of clothing company Patagonia. 

Together they have helped create and extend 15 national parks in Chile and Argentina and eventually worked with both governments to protect more than 14 million hectares of land.

Tompkins Conservation purchased the area in 2004 and has since donated the park to the Chilean state, where it is maintained by the Chilean National Forestry Corporation (CONAF).

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