Chambamontera micro hydro scheme

Chambamontera micro hydro scheme

Country: Peru
Date: April 2008 – February 2009

Project manager:  Celso Davila of Practical Action/ITDG

Sponsor: The Matthiesen Foundation & Orbis Pictus Trust

Chambamontera is an isolated community in the highlands of the Cajamarca area of Peru.  It is more than two hours drive on a sometimes barely passable track from Jaén, the nearest town. Livelihoods in the area are mainly dependent on snall scale coffee growing and rearing livestock and development is severely restricted by lack of access to energy.

Practical Action held consultation meetings with the community and worked together to develop a micro-hydro scheme capable of producing 15 kW of power. The The benefits of micro-hydro schemes for isolated communities are significant and include:

  • It provides a source of energy which is renewable and “fuel-free”
  • Long system lifetime, typically 25 years or more
  • Electricity is available when people need it most (more hydro energy is available in winter when heating demands are high)
  • Low maintenance requirements and running costs
  • Little environmental impact during installation

The community is contributing both labour and materials to the scheme and an association has been formed to allow the community to access credit to pay for the installation.

Construction began in September 2008. When it is complete, 60 families in the vilage totalling about 300 people or more will have life-changing access to energy to light their homes, school and health centre. Several new businesses are planned which will generate the income to transform the lives of the people of Chambamontera.

The Matthiesen in conjunction with the Orbis Pictus Trust agreed to sponsor and fund this project in 2007. From the beginning they argued for more flexibility within the scheme and so the generator and Pelton wheel were upsized to produce 20kw. Patrick Matthiesen visited the site which is difficult of access with Warwick Franklin (Practical Action UK) and a representative of Soluciones Praticos Peru on February 01 2009 to inaugurate the project. It was found that although the generator was commissioned  connections remained to be made to about 10 out of the 50 dwellings. During this visit a number of observations were made which it is hoped will lead shortly to some fine tuning and improvements notably to the safety of the structures, resistance to lightning strikes and to the safety of the domestic interior lighting. We were satisfied to see that low consumption light bulbs were going to be in use. An an analysis will be made by this Foundation into the future viability of using LED bulbs thus leaving additional capacity available for workship use or expansion of the village.

The Peruvian Government had installed a solar powered TV mast in the village some time ago even though there was no electricity. A TV set had also been donated to the primary and secondary school which serves several outlying pueblos. The solar charging system was defunct so this Foundation proposed to fund a connetion to the new electricity supply and a 24v transformer so the TV could be used in the school as well as providing a service to a public TV in the only shop (tienda). It is believed that a satellite internet service run commercially may soon follow there being no cellular phone coverage in this remote area. If this comes about negotiations are proposed to install a hook up to the school.

While in Chambomontera in February 2009 Patick Mathiesen noted that a small outlying village called El Eden was only some 1000 feet (300 metres approx.) from the nearest supply line pole leading from the generator house. After some negotiations between the two villages El Eden residents, who had lobbied Patrick Matthiesen, came to an agreement with Chambomontera with the result that The Matthiesen Foundation will sponsor the extension of the distribution network and install meters for the 50-60 residents at El Eden by the end of March 2009. A higher standard of electrical installation is hoped for within these dwellings and the Foundation has proposed that each familly be issued with a safety pack containing wire connectors and clips and instructions to prevent electrocution. It is hoped that modern three wire cabling may be introduced for the first time in one of these schemes with a correctly wired earthing circuit. In addition the Foundation has requested the provision of a lightning conductor properly installed at a high point in order to protect the line and operating apparatus from lightning strikes, something which has incapacitated the generators several times in other micro hydro installations at high altitude.