Activities and Findings
In February 2013, CEN and a small team of residents of the community of Suruacá conducted tests in the area and evaluated their findings:
You can view the measurements we took on the project's page on our organizaton's website.
Based on local observations and the measurements taken, the evaluation team concluded that micro-hydrokinetic technology is not a viable option to meet the community’s electricity needs at either site. Based on the measurements of the water current the team made along the Tapajós River near the community of Suruacá — and consistent reports by local fishermen and riverboat captains that the current speed near the community of Surucuá, approximately 50 kilometers to the south, were of similar speed to that near Suruacá — the team determined that it was not worth the additional expense to travel to Surucuá to take measurements.
Long-Term Energy Alternatives
Although CEN has concluded that a micro-hydrokinetic implementation is not a suitable option for meeting the electricity needs of either Suruacá or Surucuá, there are still several other long-term energy alternatives for the communities to pursue. These include:
Constructing a transmission line from the expanded capacity planned at the micro-hydroelectric generator at the Cachoeira do Aruã, about 100 kilometers to the northwest of Suruacá: Unlike the much larger dams that are planned to the south, this installation has very limited environmental impact. While IBAMA (the Brazilian environmental agency) and the Ministry of Education support the project, financing for its construction has been delayed for a considerable time by the local electricity concessionaire. However, local agencies and nongovernmental organizations are continuing to attempt to address the obstacles.
The community has petitioned the Prefecture of Santarem for a new 600 kVA diesel generator to replace the community’s current 30 kVA generator. The new generator would produce 20 times the current generator’s capacity — enough to account for many years of future growth — for less than 50% more fuel. The current proposal details using the new generator for the same number of hours as the current generator (four hours, three to four nights a week); however, it could become feasible to expand the number of hours over time. It is unlikely to be economically feasible to operate the generator 24 hours a day and seven days a week, as this would continue to be an obstacle for meeting key needs such as refrigeration and health.
Install small generators to be used for electricity needs during the hours when the community generator is not being used. Such an approach would be very costly for long-term use since the common small generators in use today consume over one liter per hour but serve only one family. It could be an option for situations, such as tooling and woodworking shops where the generators could be used only when needed.
Several positive outcomes did result from the project:
Although we concluded that the water current along the Tapajós River is not strong enough for a micro-hydrokinetic turbine to operate efficiently, the project built upon our ongoing leadership development efforts in the community by closely involving community leaders in the discovery and evaluation process for accessing the electricity they need. Residents became active participants in the process rather than bystanders like they have been in the past.
I would like to thank everyone who has already donated for this project.
In February, while our Director, Bob Bortner, is travelling to the region, he will spend about a week in the community of Suruacá. During this visit he will take initial river current and flow readings to make a preliminary assessment of the suitability of the river for installing a micro-hydrokinetic turbine. This way we will have a much better idea of whether it makes sense to continue with a more comprehensive analysis over a full year.
Also, should the results be promising from these initial reading, and we find that taking the readings are as straight-forward as we're expecting, we'll train a minimum of two local residents to make and record the measurements on a month basis for the next twelve months. We will still need to gather community demand for electricity, as well as assess the suitability of different sites for installing the turbines, but this will eliminate the need to hire and transport engineers monthly to make the water current readings. This will dramatically reduce the cost of this assessment.
We'll keep you updated about our progress.
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