By Chris Sparadeo -- The Nicaraguan Ministry of Energy and Mines aims to revolutionize the national electric grid by demanding that by 2013 at least 50% of the country’s energy consumption is provided by renewable resources. It is an ambitious goal indeed, but with recent large-scale projects in wind and hydro energies, the projected figures might not fall so short from the target.
In the latter months of 2011 the Nicaraguan Academy of Science (ACN) teamed up with blueEnergy to investigate wind potential on the Caribbean Coast. With an extensive knowledge base and local wind turbine installations in the double digits, blueEnergy is the undisputed authority of wind energy in the region. For this reason, ACN contracted blueEnergy for logistical assistance. Together ACN and blueEnergy worked to site and install a 50-meter wind measurement tower in the communities of El Bluff and Monkey Point.
Tower size, structure and measurement apparatuses were aptly selected upon preliminary site visits with the installation team. Each tower is fitted with six measurement devices that supply unique information vis-à-vis wind speed, direction and environmental conditions to help better understand and evaluate the possibility of implementing wind turbines on the Coast. Monthly data readings are taken on site and sent to Managua for analysis.
The first of the two towers was installed in El Bluff in January of 2012. blueEnergy’s technical support was directed by Engineer Morten Gleditsch and carried out by technicians Jorge Lopez, Alex Blayath and Chris Sparadeo. El Bluff, just as its name suggests, is a serene strip of abruptly cut land that divides the Bluefields Bay from the Caribbean Ocean. It’s close proximity to Bluefields and forceful wind gusts averaging 7 m/s are promising signs of access to highly concentrated energy.
|blueEnergy, ACN team and local workers at tower in El Bluff|
Positioned high on a rocky peninsula surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and jungle, the site of the second installation in Monkey Point is even more beautiful than that of El Bluff. Monkey Point lies 40 miles south of Bluefields, or in the local unit of measurement, about an hour and a half in panga. Wind readings at 50 meters average an impressive 9 to 10 m/s, registering the Wind in Monkey Point as Class 7, the highest of classes, for wind power density. The wind, intense as it is, also brings difficulty. A high concentration of salt levels in the air contributes to quick oxidation of support cables and equipment.
|50m tower in Monkey Point|
The project was an opportunity for blueEnergy to share its localized knowledge and promote wind energy systems along the Caribbean Coast. Community members were as receptive as they were enthusiastic about the possibility of a forthcoming wind turbine project and with such promising data the projects future is looking as bright as the color TVs and florescent light bulbs that the possible electrification could allow for.