Ecuador: President Refuses to Inaugurate Wind Farm

[All links are to Spanish-language pages]

Ecuador's Villonaco wind farm project, located in the province of Loja, is considered emblematic of the government of President Rafael Correa Delgado, himself a former economist. Morevoer, it is the world's highest such eolian structure, built some 2,720 metres above sea level.

On Wednesday January 2, 2013, President Correa refused to officially open the Villonaco wind farm, branding it incomplete because it does not have an access road.

Para este presidente, acabar el proyecto, es tener una vía decente. Incluso es una falta de respeto llevar al presidente por una vía llena de baches, por eso el día de hoy no inauguré el proyecto Villonaco, lo cual me ha dado mucho dolor.

For this president, a finished project is one with adequate access. What's more it shows a lack of respect to have the president driven over a road full of pot holes. It pains to me to say it, but this is why I did not inaugurate the Villonaco project today.

Villonaco wind farm. Photo by Flickr user franzpc (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The wind farm is made up of 11 generators with a total output capacity of 16.5 MW, a substation to step up power from 34.5 to 69 kilovolts, and a subtransmission line that links the Villonaco substation to its counterpart in Loja, which is on Ecuador's national power grid.

The system was set up by the Chinese company Xinjian Goldwind Science and Technology and will cut CO2 emissions by as much as 35.270 metric tons a year. It will also reduce diesel imports, the fuel needed to generate thermal electricity. As Correa points out on Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism website, “We would save almost USD 13 million per year in fuel costs alone.”

Ecuador's electrical company CELEC is in charge of the infrastructure, with an investment of USD 36 million. The benefits are myriad, especially in terms of the environment insofar as the project will reduce toxic emissions in the atmosphere; in economic terms, it will satisfy 25% of the annual energy consumption of the province of Loja. The project will also cover 68,7% of the demand currently handled by the Empresea Eléctrica Regional Sur, the company that provides power to the provinces of Loja, Zamora, and sections of Morona Santiago.

An additional advantage is that it will generate some 90% of local jobs, direct and indirect employment of 257 and 760 posts respectively. It also promises to be an important tourist attraction, with an information centre open to locals and visitors from farther afield.

During his January 2 visit to Loja, however, the president declined the opportunity to inaugurate, among other projects, the Villonaco wind farm, characterising it as incomplete because of the poor state of its access roads.

Me negué a inaugurar el proyecto eólico, porque no somos mediocres. No se hizo lo principal, una vía decente de entrada.

I refuse to inaugurate the wind farm project because we are not mediocre. We did not provide the cornerstone: a decent means of entry.

In response to this, a number of residents of Loja commented on Twitter.

Santiago Carpio R (‏@SantiagoCarpioR) said:

@SantiagoCarpioR: Amigos periodistas, no se iba a inaugurar el Proyecto Eólico. Sólo era “La puesta en funcionamiento de UNA turbina”. Pilas no!

@SantiagoCarpioR: Journalist friends: they weren't going to inaugurate the wind farm project. They were just firing up ONE turbine. Keep those batteries charging!

Naida_Valarezo (‏@Naida_Valarezo) retweeted:

@Naida_Valarezo: @NiloV107: @marcetorrespaz @GoberLoja “politica d gobierno es obras INTEGRALES. Parque #Eolico #Loja se inaugurará cuando este completo”

@Naida_Valarezo: @NiloV107: @marcetorrespaz @GoberLoja “government policy calls for COMPLETE WORKS. Parque #Eolico #Loja wil be inaugurated when it's done”

JOHANNA ORDOÑEZ ‏(@joaordonezceli), a journalist in Loja, tweeted on Wednesday evening, January 2:

@joaordonezceli: Presidente Rafael Correa suspendió la puesta en operación del Parque Eolico, por no estar concluido el 100% faltan las vías de acceso

@joaordonezceli: President Rafael Correa cancelled the launch of the wind farm, because it wasn't 100% finished, it is missing access roads

In the end the provincial government of Loja (GPL) was tasked with improving the access road.

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