Waterfalls, Hydroprojects, and Volcanos
Tomorrow, we’re heading to our jungle lodge on the Rio Napo in the Ecuadorian rainforest. We’ll be in a bit of an Internet blackout zone for the next 6 days so until then enjoy some pics from our time in Baeza and the cloud forest. We visited two dam sites: the 50MW Quijos-Papallacta Project and the 1500MW Coca Codo Sinclair Project. The latter has been heavily criticized by environmentalists as exemplary of the type of poorly planned, excessively expensive dam project that is so common to hydro schemes in the developing world. Of course, the project will also dewater the majestic San Rafael Falls, so there is an aesthetic argument to be made as well. Even the comparatively smaller Quijos-Papallacta project got the attention of many students who had never really appreciated how environmentally disruptive dams are, even “smaller” so-called “run-of-river dams.” This project involves tunneling a diversion through geologically unstable mountain, capturing the inflows of two rivers, and then piping that flow through penstocks into a turbine several kilometers downstrea. The price tag of $120M (likely to be closer to $150M when expected cost overruns are counted) runs on the expensive side on a per MW basis. Guess who is financing and building both projects? Answer: The Chinese.