The measure of hydro expertise

Published: July 31, 2013

Luis Richards © Tractebel Engineering (Chile)

 

As every HPP project poses a unique challenge; in hydropower (HP), going beyond technical knowledge, experience translates into expertise. With 36 years in the field behind him, Tractebel Engineering (Chile) hydro expert, Luis Richards, explains why investors in Chile, and the world over, need to take this into account.

THE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE

Four key variables; hydrology, topography, geology and local conditions impact the risk, design and ultimate investment value of a HP project. Experience gained on a lot of different projects leads to faster, more accurate risk assessment and identification of the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions… Read more

INSIDE INSIGHT

As more countries invite independent investment in hydro – investors must be able to count on independent, but locally respected, professional advice and services. Proven experience in a country or region is reliable and valuable proof of this… Read more

COMPLEMENTARY EXPERIENCE & ADVICE

Not forgetting environmental assessment experience, intrinsically linked with power transmission, hydro projects are heavily reliant on the environmental and technical aspects of long distance transmission & distribution (T&D)… Read more


  • The construction site of the hydroelectric power plant in Laja (Chile) 2010 © GDF SUEZ/ROGELIO ALBERTO POZO PALMA AGENCIA COMMUNICACIONES E.I.R.L.-CLAUDIO POZO ALARCON
  • © GDF SUEZ/ROGELIO ALBERTO POZO PALMA AGENCIA COMMUNICACIONES E.I.R.L.-CLAUDIO POZO ALARCON
  • © GDF SUEZ/ROGELIO ALBERTO POZO PALMA AGENCIA COMMUNICACIONES E.I.R.L.-CLAUDIO POZO ALARCON

 

THE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE

Four key variables; hydrology, topography, geology and local conditions impact the risk, design and ultimate investment value of a HP project. Experience gained on a lot of different projects leads to faster, more accurate risk assessment and identification of the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions.

Knowing this, how important is it to know your territory?
In Chile, the geography dictates that hydro projects fit with the deep valleys and short, wild rivers that descend dramatically from the Andes Mountains. A region prone to drought; reservoirs need to be large. Seismic activity also demands dams be designed to withstand tremors (it’s notable that no dams were seriously damaged in the Chilean quakes in 1985, nor 2010). Many comparable mountainous countries in the Latin American region have similar needs, but all have their own challenges. The fact is, in HP technical knowledge is global, but having experts with localised, deep knowledge of different territories, hydrology, rock types and formations; who are also experienced in onsite investigation and assessment is invaluable to investors in planning, designing and estimating the CAPEX of a new project.

What about environmental awareness?
Reacting to local realities also requires a lot of flexibility and experience. A broad knowledge of different projects develops a better understanding and ability to devise solutions according to environmental risk. Stronger environmental terms and requirements also increasingly impact Hydro developments at an earlier and earlier stage, often requiring intuitive decision making on issues that can only be fully defined much later – e.g. how many trucks will be used on site, creating how much dust – making, once again, experience a valuable asset.

As hydropower designers and engineers, we are like architects; the job requires that we look very, very hard at everything we have to work with, the shape of the valley, the quality of the rocks, the hydrology etc.; then drawing on knowledge and experience, we aim to add a higher level of sensitivity and harmonisation of all technical, environmental and economical aspects in order to create a better project every time.Luis Richards, Hydropower Manager, Tractebel Engineering (Chile)


  • Laja 1 HPP (Chile) - view of the dam in November 2012 © Tractebel Engineering (Chile)
  • Laja 1 HPP (Chile) - the dam in 2013 © Tractebel Engineering (Chile)

 

INSIDE INSIGHT

As more countries, like Chile, invite independent investment in hydro – investors must be able to count on independent, but locally respected, professional advice and services. Proven experience in HP in a country or region is reliable and valuable proof of this.

How does investing in Hydropower experience add value for Tractebel Engineering customers?
Globally, Tractebel Engineering’s reputation for providing customers with high value solutions in HP is based on the many innovative hydro projects it has realized worldwide (through competence centers; Coyne et Bellier (France) and Tractebel Engineering/LEME ( Brazil). By comparison, our company in Chile is relatively new on the market, but is strong in experience. As in India where hydro expert Dr. H Sharma is on board to bring value to clients in that region, I’d hope that my long field and academic experience will give clients the confidence to join us in looking at ways to make the best of the many opportunities in HP in Chile and Latin America as a whole.

My expertise in the area of hydropower is directly related to the time I have dedicated in my professional life both to the design and management of such projects and its related infrastructure and as a part time professor teaching diverse courses related to hydraulics and hydro at the Universidad de Chile.Luis Richards, Hydropower Manager, Tractebel Engineering (Chile)


  • Cordillera Los Andes © Luis Richards (Tractebel Engineering)

 

COMPLEMENTARY EXPERIENCE & ADVICE

Not forgetting environmental assessment experience, intrinsically and mainly linked with power transmission, hydro projects are heavily reliant on the environmental and technical aspects of long distance transmission & distribution (T&D).

Does Tractebel Engineering’s Environmental and T&D experience help?
The fact that Tractebel Engineering are strong in both environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) not only in hydro but also in power transmission (an issue holding up a lot of the development progress of hydropower in Chile), as well as the technical aspects of long distance HV transmission – overhead and submarine – makes us a good support option for many large Chilean generator and IPP companies whose projects are currently delayed by such issues. It is one of the strong points of Tractebel Engineering that, no matter the competences in energy, infrastructure, or in my case, hydro project needs, the experience to provide it is there.

To sum up – how do you see Tractebel Engineering adding value to the Hydropower industry?
In my view, the company brings the most important elements a client, whether government or private, has a right to expect of their hydro experts:

  • International experience
  • Ability to adapt and react to local realities
  • Sound technical knowledge in every specialist field that may be required
  • Professionalism and honesty in the assessment of risk
  • High technological capacity
  • Innovation and flexibility

One of several current HP activities for Tractebel Engineering (Chile) includes the site supervision of Laja 1 HPP (35 MW-Owner’s Engineering) for GDF SUEZ. For more Latin American and global Hydropower references visit Tractebel–engineering-gdfsuez.com

 

TRUE HPP VALUE

Thorough investigation of contextual risks during HPP development is vital to avoid unexpected surprises, costs and delays. Our broad, global experience allows us to more rapidly identify those risks and carry-out the investigations owners need to make decisions that will impact the entire future of their project – not just its optimal design, construction and performance, but the key investment decisions to be made.Daniel Develay – CEO Tractebel Engineering (France)

GLOBAL ACTIVITY

Tractebel Engineering is active on HPP projects all around the world. Some current projects include:

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (6,000 MW) – Ethiopia

Rogun HPP (3,600 MW) – Tajikistan

Budhi Gandhari HPP (600 MW) – Nepal

Jirau HPP (3,750 MW) – Brazil

Tocoma HPP (2,160 MW) – Venezuela

Sopladora HPP (487 MW) – Ecuador

Quitaracsa HPP (112MW) – Peru

Bajo Frio HPP (58MW) – Panama

Laja HPP (37MW) – Chile

More information

Luis Richards, Hydropower Manager-Tractebel Engineering (Chile)

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