The 14 wind turbines of the Minas de Huascachaca wind farm, the largest in Ecuador, are on their way to Puerto Bolívar (El Oro) from China. Their arrival is scheduled for this Wednesday, January 19, 2022.
From Puerto Bolívar (El Oro), the machines will be transferred by land to the San Sebastián de Yuluc parish, in the Saraguro canton (Loja), a desert area located at the foot of the Jubones River, on the border with Azuay.
When it comes into operation, the Huascachaca Wind Farm will generate 50 Megawatts (MW) of clean energy. For this to happen, each of the 14 generators that make up the park will produce 3.57 MW with a plant factor of 32% (percent of time creating energy versus total time; 32% is about average for land-based farms).
Wind energy in Ecuador will increase by 236% when Huascachaca comes into operation, according to data from the Ministry of Energy.
“We hope to do the tests with the first generators in April, so that the entire park can do the final tests in early July 2022,” says Carlos Durán, Director of the Elecaustro Projects Unit.
This project will prevent the generation of 94,000 tons of CO2 per year and will save the country the consumption of more than 7.5 million gallons of fossil fuel per year, according to Elecaustro.
Transfer and installation
Once the wind turbines arrive in Puerto Bolívar, it will take between 22 and 36 weeks to move them to Loja. This is because each one has a weight of 600 tons, and it will take between 11 and 14 trips to carry each tower.
Due to the particularities of this equipment, the contractor also had to make some adjustments for the transfer by land: remove flower beds and traffic lights in Machala and Pasaje; clean the electrical networks that can interrupt the passage of wind turbines; the reinforcement of seven bridges along the road, among other tasks.
When the wind turbines reach their destination, the lifting will begin.
Currently, the works for the installation are already being carried out, such as building the bolt cages and the foundations.
Each tower has three segments, plus the brazier, which is where the generator goes. The cranes to move and place this equipment were specially designed for this purpose and can load up to 500 tons.
The Minas de Huascachaca project began to take shape more than a decade ago. In December 2008, the Elecaustro Public Company placed four wind measurement towers in that place, ranging from 26 to 80 meters high, explains Antonio Borrero, manager of the company.
This process was part of the studies that determined that the local wind was usable to generate energy.
As the budget to build the wind farm was high ($120 million as initial projection), the Huascachaca Project was divided into phases and in 2017 the first phase began, with the construction and adaptation of roads.
In 2019, phase 2A began, which consisted of the interconnection: the construction of two substations, one in Uchucay and the other in La Paz (located in Nabón, Azuay), which are connected through a transmission line.
The La Paz substation became energized and connected to the National Transmission System, in June 2021.
To execute the last phase, called 2B, Elecaustro made an international tender, because wind turbines are not manufactured in Ecuador, explains Borrero.
The Public Procurement Law establishes that for the acquisition of goods abroad, verification of the non-existence of national production or supply will be required, in accordance with the instructions issued by the National Public Procurement Service (Sercop).
Sercop issued the authorization and Elecaustro invited nine international firms: three participated in the bid process. “It was a long, complex and competitive search,” says Borrero.
To choose the contractor, parameters such as the useful life of the project, maintenance, operation, and energy production offered by the companies were considered.
The Chinese company Dongfang Electric International was the one that offered the most energy capacity and won the contest.
“The international contracting process was comprehensive,” insists Carlos Durán, director of Elecaustro’s Project Supervision Unit.
Local suppliers challenge part of contract
The Dongfang contract comprises two parts: the first is the manufacture and delivery in the Ecuadorian port of the wind turbines and other components.
The second part is the related services: from the arrival and reception of the equipment in the port, the transfer by land, to the start-up and operation for two years.
To contract these services, Dongfang Ecuador the company that the Chinese firm established in the country to execute its contract—made a national tender. Four consortiums participated and Santa Fé-Montejo (an Ecuadorian-Colombian alliance) won.
This point has generated a claim against the contract by the National Chamber of Heavy Transport of Ecuador and the Noroccidental Atlas consortium, one of the providers for related services.
The consortium and the heavy transport union consider that “in Ecuador there are companies that can provide related services: transport of wind turbines to the project site and assembly, installation and commissioning of the wind farm.”
Therefore, in their opinion, Dongfang Ecuador should not be awarded the second part of the contract.
Because of this, the representatives of Noroccidental filed a protection action before a Constitutional Judge of Azuay to suspend the contract with the subsidiary of Dongfang in Ecuador, alleging that in this process national products and services were not prioritized.
The judge in the case rejected the protection action claim, “considering that there was no violation of any constitutional right.”
The representatives of Elecaustro respond that the type of project requires a complete technical guarantee, so when the main contract was to be awarded, all the suppliers agreed that the path to execution was the creation of a national subsidiary.
In addition, although Santa Fe is of Panamanian origin, it has been domiciled in Ecuador since 1982, according to the Superintendence of Companies.
It is the company that already provided this service when the Villonaco Wind Farm was built, in Loja. To participate on this occasion, it made an alliance with the Montejo company.
Faced with the judge’s refusal, both the Northwest Consortium and the Heavy Transport Chamber resorted to other instances, such as the National Anticorruption Commission and Assemblyman Fernando Villavicencio, president of the National Assembly Oversight Commission.
In response to their concerns, Germán Rodas, coordinator of the National Anticorruption Commission, has asked Sercop for information on the wind project.
Villavicencio has also requested information from Elecaustro and other public entities such as the Revenue Service, the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security, the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works.