OllagÜe hybrid plant
Ollagüe is a small Chilean cut off village, originally a miners’ settlement, 160 km far away from Calama, at the border with Bolivia. Its little more than 200 inhabitants live at an altitude of 3700 m and are mainly devoted to their domestic cattle and modest catering at the border. The village is not connected to the SING (Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande) and there only exists a microgrid circuit powered by a 250 kW diesel generator, supplying electricity for no more than 16 hours a day. No electricity is provided from 1:00 to 8:00 am.
The project consists of a hybrid off-grid plant, with PV solar and wind components, battery storage, and a backup diesel generator. Additionally, some thermodynamic cogenerating concentration systems have been connected to the microgrid of Ollagüe. The project features highly advanced and reliable systems in order to minimize specialized maintenance. The whole hybrid plant system can be operated, locally or remotely, through a control room. Finally, an integrated weather forecast system allows the implementation of the latest algorithms for predicting the production from renewables.
The operation and maintenance model has been designed in order to be sustainable. Social integration of the stakeholders in the management model is strategic for medium and long-term success. In fact, maintenance is one of the greatest issues off-grid solutions are facing, especially in remote areas. Lack of operation and maintenance professionals will result eventually in plant failure. In order to overcome this critical issue, Ollagüe’s community is involved in the plant O&M with remote support from specialized Enel Green Power O&M personnel. Specialized professional teams directly operate in the remote area only in case of extraordinary maintenance.
A further advancement is the introduction of smart metering devices, which will promote energy efficiency awareness and better consumption behaviors, thus making Ollagüe a “smart village”.
Off-grid hybrid systems represent one of the fastest growing applications for renewables, driven by the large request of energy coming from remote areas where, despite weak and limited or no access to the grid, energy intensive activities are in operation. In such contexts, the cost of relying on diesel is increased by the distance form urbanized areas. In the meantime, PV plants together with Energy Storage Systems are spreading as an alternative solution to diesel generators. The social and economic advantages of having green energy 24/7 are very important for small communities living in extreme climatic conditions, as it happens in Ollagüe. Electricity is pivotal for the development of rural areas and the electrification comes hand in hand with better life conditions and welfare improvements. An immediate benefit brought by electrification is the improvement of the lighting system, now allowing for extended hours of study and reading, thus contributing to better educational achievements. Extended hours of lighting can also benefit other household activities, such as weaving which constitutes an additional source of revenues for the Ollagüe’s families.