Hydro-PV microgrid in Patagonia


From pv magazine Germany.

The Patagonia National Park in Chile is one of the world’s largest nature conservation projects. U.S. citizens Douglas and Kristine Tompkins moved to Chile in the early 1990s and set up a foundation to preserve the wild landscape. They bought the national park in 2004 and have since handed it to the Chilean state.

Since the area is far from the grid, park facilities were powered by diesel until a year ago. The generators have been partially replaced by a combination of hydropower, PV and battery storage. German battery manufacturer Tesvolt said the hybrid project is eventually intended to supply the national park primarily with electricity from renewables. A hostel, restaurant, campsites, an information center and a museum are located on the site.

“Combining hydropower and photovoltaics is technically very demanding,” said Gonzalo Rodriguez, engineer at SyR Energía, the Patagonian installation company which planned and installed the project.

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The hydro-photovoltaic power plant has total output of 115 kW, with the solar system coupled with two hydraulic turbines. In winter and spring especially, local rivers swell due to heavy rainfall and Andes snowmelt. The microturbines convert the energy of the water into electricity, said Tesvolt. In summer, the water level of the rivers drops sharply but the photovoltaic system supplies electricity.

Excess electricity is held in the battery storage systems supplied by Tesvolt, which have a 144 kWh capacity. “The park is so remote that it was very important to use system components that, thanks to their high quality, require little maintenance,” said Rodriguez. The system has been running without problems for exactly a year.

“We are very excited about the construction of the most advanced hydro-solar microgrid in Chile, which will continue to provide clean electricity for the park for a long time to come,” said Carolina Morgado, executive director of the Tompkins Conservation foundation. “This alternative energy system minimizes the park's carbon footprint and thus contributes to the fight against climate change.”

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