Pushing on ahead at breakneck speed…here’s the van we traveled in with familia Herredia and friends.On the way in to Macas, a five hour ride over some pretty bumpy road, we made arrangements to see the enormous hydroelectric power plant on the Paute river into which the Tomebamba flows just outside of Cuenca and which readers of this blog have seen pictures.
So, four days after driving in we passed the power plant, had lunch in their cafeteria and then drove down and down and down into the Paute canyon, crossed over a bridge to the mouth of this Italian built hydro power plant.
Here’s the entry cave
I don’t have too many stats on this monster but here’s one for you: 55% of Ecuador’s power comes from this one powerplant. There are 10 “units” or unidades through which water flows. That is, there are 10 turbines and 10 generators and spherical shutoff valves and 10 control panels, etc, etc.
Here, however below is one of the two outflows of Paute. I dropped a limb into this and estimate that it’s moving along at about 35mph. You’re looking at something that’s about 25-30′ wide and 150′ long. It’s hauling at this point even after having lost most of it’s energy to producing electricity.
One of these babies produces enough power to supply the city of Cuenca with power: enough for 350,000 people. Here’s the two outflows where you’d have the wildest (but short lived) kayak rides imaginable. I figured it out on the back of an envelope and each one of the two outflows is several times the average flow of our Rogue River.
Above are the two outflows – below Juan Herredia and Chiyemi at one of them
But before the water passes through the turbines there’s a spherical shutoff valve (below), maybe 6-8′ height.
Below is the turbine shaft (one of 10)
This turbine is stopped but if it were turning, it’d be spinning at (as I recall) 360 rpm and generating enough power for Cuenca. We walked through one that was turning and you had to plug your ears or risk serious hearing loss. Dude! Open your eyes!
Here’s one unused or spare turbine and below is a closeup – nice industrial artwork and you can trust the Italians to make it beautiful!
And the control panels for about half of the units – the others are behind the photographer at this point.
And where does all that power go after it’s been generated? Into 10 100 Megawatt cables surrounded by oil and compressed gas to keep it from arc’ing out into innocent tourist and completely ruining their day.
And then? And then?
And then they rise straight up (that’s an elevator in the right foreground) 1500′ to the surface and conveyed by high tension lines to the rest of the country. This project is one of three on this same river, the Paute in eastern Ecuador that will oversupply Ecuador with power. This one dam produces 55% and the others are similar size.
Here’s the dam from above ground.
And what are we flooding, you might ask? Here’s the Paute River canyon.
Here’s the future: one of the two new dams on the Paute – this is the backside of the dam under construction. Same Italian engineers and Ecuadorian workers who live here (it’s a LONG way from anything resembling a city), send there kids to school, have their cafeterias, hospital and even their own whorehouse I was informed by one of my Ecuadorian companions. Nice that they think of everything!