On Sunday, June 16, 2019, Ticino, a small town of two thousand inhabitants located 200 kilometers southeast of Córdoba, made headlines at the national level: it was one of the few parts of the country that did not suffer one of the largest energy blackouts. of Argentine history.
It did so thanks to Generación Ticino Biomasa, the company that created the Lorenzati Ruetsch y Cía. to generate electrical energy thanks to the burning of its main waste: the peanut shell.
According to Fabio Bruschini, director of the plant, each hour the furnace uses between 4,500 and 5,000 kilos of shell, with which it has the capacity to produce four megawatts of power: three are “uploaded” to the Argentine Interconnection System (Sadi) and one is consumed by the company. This energy is enough to supply more than twice the homes of the town.
Almost two years earlier, another company from Córdoba had also pioneered with renewable energies: in July 2017, Bioeléctrica was the first firm that participated in the Renovar program to supply the wholesale electricity market (MEM) with energy generated through of the processing in a biodigester of chopped corn, bovine manure and light stillage.
To this turbine with two megawatts of power, the Rio Cuartense company added another three, each of which adds 1.2 megawatts.
These four projects are part of the nine that are already operating in Córdoba, among the 28 that were awarded in rounds 1, 1.5, 2 and 3 of the Renovar program, which began in 2016 in order to promote the replacement of conventional energies for renewable and more sustainable alternatives in relation to the environment.
Among those that already deliver energy to the national system, there are three biomass, all based on peanut shells: that of Ticino, that of Prodeman (nine megawatts), in General Cabrera, and that of Maglione Hnos. And Emerald Resources (0 , 5 MW), in Las Junturas.
Added to this is the biogas plant of the Cotagro and Cleanergy cooperative in Alcira Gigena, which provides a megawatt thanks to a biodigester that processes effluent from pigs and organic waste, and the largest project awarded to date in the province: the wind farm de Achiras, with an installed power of 48 megawatts.
It means that, in total, there are already 67.1 megawatts that are generated from Córdoba for the entire country through renewable energy ventures.
To have a dimension: they are equivalent to 14.4 percent of the 466 megawatts of power that the Central Bicentenario (Pilar) of the Córdoba Provincial Energy Company (Epec) has or almost 10 percent of the 683 megawatts of the Nuclear Power Plant Reservoir.
There are 19 other projects that have their corresponding provision contract signed with the Electric Wholesale Market Administration Company (Cammesa), of which five are under construction.
Two correspond to Epec: these are “small hydroelectric exploitation” works in Las Tapias and Cruz del Eje, which have an execution progress of 70 and 83 percent, respectively, as reported by the company. They will provide 0.5 megawatts each.
Another two correspond to the solar parks awarded to Neuss Fund LLC, in Villa de María del Río Seco and Villa Cura Brochero, for a total of 37 megawatts.
The remainder is the biogas plant that Pollos San Mateo began to build last week, in Río Ceballos, which will generate 2.8 megawatts: 2.4 megawatts for Sadi and 0.4 megawatts for self-consumption.
“After fighting it for almost three years, we were able to start civil works. The contract establishes that on April 25, 2021 it must be commercially enabled. We should have started earlier, but the exchange rate after the Paso last year stopped us all, “said Mateo Ligato, head of the company.
The original idea of the company was to install a “turnkey” plant imported from Spain, but, given the strong rise in the dollar, financing fell and they had to look for another alternative. “We are looking for national technologists, we design a new model and we are already building it,” Ligato remarked.
The planned investment is 6.5 million dollars to process 133 thousand tons of waste per year, that is, about 360 per day. A part will be the waste from the poultry farm, but will also incorporate effluents from other companies, such as Arcor, Pritty and Refinerías del Centro.
This complicated financial panorama is the main obstacle encountered by the remaining projects that have their respective signed contracts, but have not been able to advance in the anticipated times.
In all cases, they are initiatives that require a large outlay: depending on the energy source, each megawatt means an investment of between one million and two million dollars.
For example, in addition to the projects in Córdoba, Bioeléctrica has a biomass plant pending in Formosa, which will generate 10 megawatts with waste from the forest industry. “We have already invested three million dollars, but we have it held back due to lack of financing. In total there are 25 million dollars, and the truth is that it is a plan of doubtful realization in Argentina today ”, acknowledged Manuel Ron, Bioelectrica partner and member of the Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energies (Cader).
The same happens with the solar park awarded to Epec in Arroyo Cabral: 40 megawatts, which means 44 million dollars of investment. “State: in management of financing alternatives”, synthesized from the state company.
The Compañía Anglo Córdoba de Tierras is one of the last that signed a contract with Cammesa to provide a megawatt through a biogas plant fed with effluents from a feedlot and from a pig farm.
“We have until July 2023 to start selling, but there is a lot of uncertainty because there are no financing lines. Until the Bice is retired, you cannot ask for money abroad due to exchange restrictions and it is an investment that exceeds three million dollars. Our deadline to define if we move forward is April of next year, ”warned Marcos Torres, director of the firm.
The problem is that, if they give up the project and cannot get another company to buy and execute it, they have to pay a $ 250,000 bond. This is what happened, for example, with one of the first projects that were awarded in Córdoba: a biogas plant based on organic waste that was going to operate in Huinca Renancó and that remained in stand by due to the lack of financing and the risk that the Government will charge investors a fine of 600 thousand dollars.
They launch a “federal dialogue for a renewable Argentina”
According to the Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energies (Cader), among the projects that are in commercial operation and those that are being built and in the process of starting, there are more than 200 projects in Argentina related to renewable energies.
Together, they add up to a power of 6,000 megawatts (3,500 are already in operation) and investments for almost 10 billion dollars, according to Florencia Castagnani, Cader coordinator.
In order to consolidate and enhance the growth that the sector has been showing in recent years, Cader will launch this Wednesday, October 7, the “Federal Dialogue for a Renewable Argentina.”
It is a space for public-private articulation, in which officials, both national and provincial, will participate, in which it is intended to agree on a work agenda and a synergy of efforts so that projects do not remain stagnant.
Castagnani pointed out that in recent months they have been developing webinars on different topics and with representatives from different provinces, which had a very good impact. That is why it was decided to move forward now with this new general initiative for the entire country.
“There are many problems, such as the issue of financing, which sometimes also has to do with a lack of information. The idea is to streamline the efforts and find a way to channel an agenda for progress, ”the Cader executive summarized.
The original text of this article was published on 10/7/2020 in our print edition.