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Business in Loja
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In November 2010 the plan for the electrical grid was approved by the
company EERSA. In December 2010, the work commenced.
Yours truly with our first 25KVA transformer waiting to be mounted (the transformer
that is :-))
Taking into account several parameters, we have opted for an aerial system made
out of medium tension lines (13KV), aerial transformers and aerial low tension lines
(110V/220V). These parameters are:
In New Zealand where I was involved in a similar project before, albeit much smaller,
lines are underground as much as feasible. This is of course better and helps with
the "clean and green" image that this country tries to portrait to the world. This
is also a lot more expensive particularly when it comes to bury lines with 13000
volts of tension on them.
Why do we use high tension lines you may ask? Anyone who has studied electricity
knows the formula:
Power (Watts) = Voltage * Amperage
The higher the voltage, the less amperage is needed to convey a given amount of
power. The power is what you need to drive your things. For example a toaster will
need 1000 watts. With 110 Volts your toaster will require about 10 Amps going down
the wire, whereas with 13000 Volts, a meager 0.1 Amp will do the same. However I
would not want to be the one picking my toast from a toaster connected to a 13000
Volts power point !
The more Amps an electrical cable needs to convey the thicker and hence more expensive
per meter it needs to be, hence the widespread use of high tension to convey electric
power over large distances.
With our project we are dealing with distances around 1 kilometer, sufficient to justify
the use of high tension. Note that when I use the term "high tension", I really
mean "medium tension". The tensions used to convey electricity on nationwide grids
is what they call "high tension" and is much higher than 13000 Volts.
Of course you don't want to feed your house with a lethal supply of 13000 Volts,
this is why we need transformers, these rather ugly things that they place on top
of poles all over the country.
Why do they place the transformers high in the air and not on the ground? It has
a lot to do with safety. You don't want anyone to have a chance to be near the high
tension as there is mortal danger. You don't want the high tension cables to be
close to the ground either because you then have to seriously insulate them with
expensive plastic shielding to prevent shorts, leaks, fire risks etc... Then you'd
have to inspect the shielding regularly for damage and wear. The easiest, most cost
effective and absolute safest way is "to keep the high tension high" away from the
ground, and only come down to earth after the tension has been reduced to 110V by
the transformer, hence the widespread use of aerial transformers.
We are after all living in a poor country where you'd expect practical and especially
financial considerations to take precedence over aesthetics. My view is that since
we have made the choice to come here we are the ones who have to adjust.
For people who want perfect unspoilt landscapes, I recommend New Zealand. However,
I left NZ for Ecuador and there is a reason for that.
For the technical reasons explained above, the transformers have to be close to
the point of use, your house. As always, there is a cultural aspect to all this.The Ecuadorians don't care if
there is a transformer close to their house. The foreigners do. We know that
transformers emit electro-magnetic radiations and these can cause harm to one's
health when exposed to them over a long period of time. In Loja, the transformers
are in the air and so close to people's bedrooms it can be quite frightening.
Having said that, there are transformers and transformers. They are not all the
same. Here we are talking about small transformers feeding a very small number
of houses. The currents will be minimal and so will be the radiations, and even
more so, if we act on our lifestyles to reduce our energy needs which ultimately
in my view is the right thing to do.We have total control over this. The people
in Loja or Vilcabamba don't.
From the transformer to the houses the power will be conveyed under 110V (or 220V
for those who opt for this extra) which means that the cable has to be of good quality
thick and short. If it is too thin or too long (they recommend 100-200m) the tension
at the house will no longer be 110V but lower, due to heat losses in the cable.
Depending on the appliance, it may be OK or not. A toaster will be very happy with
85V but a fridge will suffer or not work at all.
After these general considerations, let's now take a more detailed look at the property's grid..
Providing power to 17 quintas that are spread out over 70 hectares of land requires
a bit of forward thinking. I had to take into account things like:
After many hours spent roaming the land with and without the engineers, the plan
was drawn, submitted and approved
Below is a conceptual map. This is not an engineering map. It is provided here only
for the purpose of this web site and is subject to change
There are 2 high tension lines, the western line feeding Q3, Q3B, Q3C, Q12, Q16,
Q13 and the eastern line feeding Q14,Q17,Q9B,Q9 and further south Q4,Q5,Q6 and Q7.
On the western line, there is only one 25KVA transformer at this stage to supply
Q3, Q3B, Q3C, Q8, Q12, Q16 and Q13. When and if needed (when more of these quintas
are sold) a second transformer can be added on the same pole.
On the eastern line, there is one northern transformer and one southern transformer.
Both are 25KVA.
The northern transformer supplies Q14, Q17, Q9B, Q9. It is also
shown to supply Q15. Q15 is the plantation and also is where the pump station will
be located to fill the reservoir with river water when needed. This pump requires
The southern transformer supplies Q5, Q4, Q6 and Q7.
There is an existing power connection to Q1 from a transformer on the other side
of the river. Q2 will connect to that same transformer as well.
Finally, there is at this point no provision to supply Q10 and Q11. These will require
either an extension of the western high tension line or another connection coming
from the top. There is indeed power available on the properties south of southern
boundary (camino a Toronche)
We, the property developers, provide power at the boundary or close to the boundary of each quinta, wherever most practical.
For example, when a transformer is located 5 meters from the boundary as in the
case of Q3 or Q3C it does not make sense to put another post on the boundary. In
that case, the owners of Q3 and Q3C can connect directly to the transformer which
is on the post 5 meters from their boundary and take it from there.
We provide power at or near the boundary which is the nearest to the nearest transformer,
not necessarily the nearest to your house.
We do not provide power cables to the houses, we do not provide power meters, we
do not do any trenching for you, we do not pay power accounts. This may sound obvious
but we have had people questioning this and telling us that we should pay for everything
all the way to the house including the meter.
The meters are part of the agreement that each one of us need to make with the power
company. company It is the purchaser responsibility to make this agreement, it is their agreement with the power company. There are different types of meters 110V only or 110V and 220V combined.
The former, I was told, cost about $40, the latter, $300. Also depending on where
the meter is located it may require a box. There are many different types of boxes
and the one that is needed depends on the type of meter. The 220V meter requires
a larger box.
The connection to the transformer also depends on the type of account that each
one of us wants. For 110V only you need two wires, for 110V and 220V you need 3
wires. The cost per meter is different.
Finally, last but not least, cables can be aerial or subterranean. The former is
a lot cheaper than the latter. The aerial cable may require a pole to pass above
the trees. The buried cable will of course require trenching and may not be feasible
depending on the terrain. Each quinta owner need to discuss this with a qualified
You know what? I am always in awe when I see what the people of Ecuador are capable
of. Somebody should write a book of tricks and techniques, a "How To" manual of
how to do everything by hand, fast, without sophisticated gear and with fun.
I had a few questions on my mind before they started the work:
Well, once again they have impressed me. The photos below are a credit to Ecuadorian
ingenuity, strength and also happiness. I have only seen smiles, a little less when
I asked them if we could move one post after they were all finished with it, but
a few beers later, we were smiling again and one day of hard work later, the post
was moved to a new hole.
Lifting the 11 meter tall, one ton post using a tree and a hoist to put it on the
Manoeuvring the entrance bridge was fun, we had to take the trailer off the car
and pull it by hand because the turn was too sharp
I helped a lot, they wouldn't have made it without me :-)
Up the road slow and steady, go baby go, careful not to tip it over on the side
Then up the hill by hand, using trees, ropes and some manual tool with a long handle
like a jack, moving up one centimeter at a time. Takes 2 guys to operate the handle.
This is hard work. I gave it a go for one minute. I must have lifted it 10 centimeters
then I got a sore arm.
Time to dig some holes. We are talking about really deep holes (1m 50) !!
Then lifting the post and placing it into the hole using a metal pole and a hoist.
Lots of concentration and experience here, one mistake and somebody dies.
After lifting the transformer using the same technique, it is time for the "monkeys"
to get up there and make the connections
We are not finished yet. This was only the first post and first transformer.
More to come...