Global Hydropower Day: Lombardi and Energías Limpias del Yaguala:11 October 2022
Celebrating the Arenal Hydroelectric Project in northern Honduras
The Arenal Hydroelectric Project, in northern Honduras, undoubtedly deserves to be celebrated and there can be no better time than this to do so. In fact, this 60MW plant (net head 135m, design discharge 51m3/sec) has just been commissioned and has already benefitted local communities, the regional economy and the entire country in different ways.
Since the beginning of construction in 2018, workers have been recruited predominantly in the direct influence area of the project. The construction of the access roads, the camp and the river diversion tunnels at the future dam site, was just the beginning of the main works that would come later. These include the arch-gravity dam (100m in height, 273m in crest length, total concrete volume of 305,000m3 of which more than 200,000m3 was RCC) and the 4.6km long underground headrace system. The powerhouse on the Yaguala River shore and the erection of the two vertical Francis units complete the works, substantially improving the electricity supply in a peripheral part of the national power grid and providing the fertile Aguan Valley with valuable protection against floods.
The reservoir, with a net volume of 52million m3, allows energy with high added value to be injected into the transmission grid, generated during seasons and at the hours of the day when demand requires it. In addition, the increased regulatory capacity that the Arenal plant brings to the grid represents a welcome correction of the evolution of the energy matrix in recent years, in which new solar and wind plants have increased the renewable percentage of Honduran generation but have also made it more difficult to manage the grid.
There has also been minimal environmental impact, given that the reservoir is located in a remote area, where no resettlement was necessary, and the loss of cultivated land was minimal. On the contrary, the communities that are located on the hills above the reservoir, in addition to finding employment during construction, have experienced an unprecedented improvement in living conditions, thanks to new roads, health centres, schools and numerous other social programmes promoted in the context of the project development.
As is often the case, obtaining outstanding results requires great efforts. This was also the case in Arenal, as construction had to cope with the Covid 2019 pandemic and two hurricanes in 2020. These events, both of Category 4, represented challenging times for the project but have also provided the first demonstration of how the reservoir can mitigate floods, protecting the communities downstream from greater damage.
After overcoming these challenges, all is well that ends well. We are proud of the work done and with immense joy we inviteall readers to celebrate with us the commissioning of the Arenal plant.
Ramzy Massu, General Manager, and Luis Munguía, Site Operation Manager at Energías Limpias del Yaguala, S.A. de C.V, Honduras; Federico Cippà, Project Manager, Lombardi Ltd Consulting Engineers, Switzerland; and Cristóbal González, Contract Manager, Lombardi Latinoamérica S.A., Guatemala.