QUITO – Ecuador will bring online a $500 million hydroelectric plant Wednesday in its southern Andes, a project billed as a partial solution to a domestic electricity shortfall.
President Rafael Correa will be on hand to inaugurate the 160 MW Mazar plant in a ceremony at the project site, the Electricity and Renewable Energy Ministry said Tuesday.
Part of a hydroelectric complex that also includes the Paute plant, located downstream from Mazar, the project is one of the government’s alternatives for boosting electricity generation.
Paute, which has 1,000 MW of installed capacity and meets roughly 35 percent of the country’s electricity needs, currently is Ecuador’s largest hydroelectric power station.
Mazar also will serve as an additional reservoir for the Paute plant, whose installed capacity can fall by at least half when water levels are low.
Ecuador struggled with a severe electricity crisis at the end of last year when a drought in the country’s southern Andes seriously affected hydroelectric output at the Paute plant.
The government was forced to resort to nationwide power rationing, use large electrical generators provided by the United States and import electricity from Colombia and Peru.
Authorities hope Mazar will partially resolve the domestic electricity shortfall, although the government says other hydroelectric projects are in the works that may even allow Ecuador to export power to its neighbors.
One of those projects is the nearly $2 billion Coca-Codo Sinclair plant, which is to be built beginning in 2011 and add 1,500 MW of installed capacity to Ecuador’s power grid.
That plant, to be built in the Amazon region, will supplant Paute as the Andean nation’s largest hydroelectric dam. EFE