Colombia’s untapped hydraulic potential

By 26/10/2017 No Comments
Energy recovery with hydraulic turbine systems

The potential of hydraulic energy in Colombia has been well known since the late 19th century, from the time of the country’s industrial revolution. While large hydropower stations are the main source of renewable energy in the country, micro hydraulics has also begun to play an important role in the past decade. Today, this energy source is an alternative to hydropower stations and offers up many advantages and possible applications in a country that is working to diversify its energy sources to tackle frequent drought. In this post, we’ll focus on the hydroelectric potential of a water supply system that hasn’t yet been taken into account: the aqueducts.

The UPME 2015 Hydraulic energy atlas classifies the hydroelectric potential in Colombia by type of station and geographic region, with precise data on how to take advantage of untapped hydraulic potential. Here at Tecnoturbines, we’ve gone even further and proposed a new category that hadn’t been considered previously: the country’ aqueducts.

The Tecnoturbines study on the untapped hydraulic potential of Colombia’s aqueducts aims to raise awareness of a new source of renewable energy that is often overlooked. The potential of Colombia’s aqueducts has been calculated based on real hydraulic data from Manizales that was extrapolated to build an estimate for the whole country based on population and geography.

The results were surprising:

According to our calculations, the untapped potential of Colombian aqueducts would increase production between 24% and 382%, depending on the type of hydroelectric power plant. The results are particularly significant for pico hydro stations (382%) and micro hydro stations (43%). This data expands Colombia’s options for generating clean energy, helping improve the economy in this sector. The study offers solutions to several problems facing water management and distribution companies in Colombia today:

  1. High cost of extracting and distributing water due to constantly rising electricity prices
  2. Excess pressure in pipes that causes them to break or leak, accounting for 15% to 40% of all water lost
  3. Power supply in remote areas like hydrants, tanks, catch pit, motorised valves, etc.

What solutions does Tecnoturbines offer?

Faced with this problem, Tecnoturbines proposes installing hydraulic turbines at the end of aqueducts to take advantage of the energy wasted in these systems. The power generated can be put into the power grid or stored in batteries, an off-grid solution that would be particularly useful in isolated areas without easy access to the power network.

Tecnoturbines has already used this technology in Manizales, in a case study used to illustrate the potential of Colombia’s aqueducts for generating power.

The water management and distribution company, Aguas de Manizales, oversaw a facility with excess pressure, so the hydraulic resource was channelled into a tank with a lot of power but its energy potential wasn’t taken advantage of.

Tecnoturbines studied the terrain and installed a Hydro Regen turbine with 45 kW of power where the water enters the tank, taking advantage to generate on-grid power and covering nearly all of the plant’s energy needs. Part of the power generated has been used for street lighting in the city. An effective solution with minimal environmental impact using a previously untapped source of clean energy.

If you manage a hydraulic facility with hydroelectric potential and would like to discover how you can make the most of this potential, don’t hesitate to contact us. At Tecnoturbines we offer both on- and off-grid solutions for any sort of industry.