Friday, February 8, 2008

HidroAysen Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) 80% Complete for Dams on the Baker & Pascua Rivers

The EIA being prepared by generator HidroAysén for its 2.75GW hydro project planned for southern Chile's Aysén region is 80% complete, HidroAysén general manager Hernán Salazar told BNamericas.

The company plans to submit the EIA in the first half of this year.

(But will anyone be able to read it? See:
Hydroaysen Keeping Public in the Dark, Say Chile Dam Critics )

"In March, we are going review the progress of the project and determine if we can stick to that time frame," Salazar said.

The company could not speculate on how long the review process would last, but projects usually take 9-14 months to be reviewed, according to Salazar.

"It's different for each case and depends on the specific characteristics of the project," he said.


No changes, meanwhile, will be made to the project from its current form.

"We've spent two years making the project as efficient as possible and it's what we are going to present," he said.

HidroAysén announced in August it had reduced the project's proposed total flood surface from 9,300ha to 5,910ha as a result of input from both local residents and government officials.

The total planned flood surface dropped 45.4% to 4,300ha on the Baker river and increased 14.2% to 1,600ha on the Pascua river.

At the initial development states of the project, the company had sought input from Aysén residents through its Casas Abiertas program. The company received more than 800 questions from local residents and responded to each.

"From the beginning of the project, when we arrived in the region at the end of 2005, we decided to abide by several criteria. We decided to respect local culture and to make the process transparent.

(Like the transparent Biobio River project? Endesa Strategy & Tactics I – Revisiting the Ralco & Pangue Hydroelectric Projects on the Rio Bio Bio )

We decided to inform (but not respect the wishes of) local residents of Aysén about the project first, before the rest of Chile," Salazar said.

The company faces opposition from several NGOs, which argue the project would damage pristine areas of Chile's south, but Salazar argues the project is one of the most efficient hydro projects ever planned.

"The two rivers could be used for a project much larger than the one we are developing. The 2.75GW project is the minimum size that will permit us to maintain economic and financial equilibrium," Salazar said.

The Rapel hydro plant in Chile, which was constructed in the 1960s, occupies 8,000ha of flood land for 376MW of capacity, according to Salazar.

The HidroAysén project, meanwhile, will produce 18.4TWh/y with 5,910ha of flood land, of which 1,900ha are natural.

"The project is 25 times more efficient than Rapel. It's a world-class project, probably one of the three or four most efficient projects in the world," Salazar continued. (Forgetting to mention the 2000 kilometer-long transmission line across Patagonia.)

When the project comes online, it will produce nearly 20% of the total capacity currently installed in Chile's central grid. The rivers, however, run on inverse seasons to rivers in Chile's central zone. The company does not expect dry seasons to significantly affect power production.

HidroAysén is jointly run by Chilean generators Endesa Chile and Colbún. Total project investment is expected to exceed US$2.43bn.

Here is the full article.