When the Sopladora hydroelectric plant begins operations on Thursday, it will be capable of supplying 13% of Ecuador’s electricity needs. Located on the Azuay – Morona Santiago provincial border, the plant’s three turbines will generate 487 megawatts of electricity.
Sopladora is one of eight hydroelectric projects the government began building in 2010 and 2011 with the intent of making Ecuador energy independent. Another large hydro project, Minas-San Francisco, southwest of the Yunguilla Valley, is scheduled to go on-line in mid-2017 with 275 megawatts of generating capacity. When all eight plants are operational, by the end of 2017, the country will sell excess electricity to Peru and Colombia.
According to Ecuador Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Esteban Albornoz, the Sopladora facility will save the government $280 million in fuel costs currently needed to fuel current power plants. “This money can be invested in schools, roads, and hospitals,” he said at a Tuesday press conference. “It is the payoff for years of work that will reap huge benefits for the country in the future.”
When Minas-San Francisco begins operations, Azuay Province will produce more than half of Ecuador’s electricity, all from hydro generation.
Alborno said that Sopladora not only offers financial benefits, but has limited effect on the environment. Its turbines are powered by water channeled through large underground tunnels, he said.