Articles | Volume 16, issue 8
Research article
17 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 17 Aug 2012

Assessing residual hydropower potential of the La Plata Basin accounting for future user demands

I. Popescu, L. Brandimarte, M. S. U. Perera, and M. Peviani

Abstract. La Plata Basin is shared by five countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), which have fast growing economies in South America. These countries need energy for their sustainable development; hence, hydropower can play a very important role as a renewable clean source of energy. This paper presents an analysis of the current hydropower production and electricity demand in La Plata Basin (LPB), and it analyses the maximum and residual hydropower potential of the basin for a horizon of 30 yr (i.e. year 2040). Current hydropower production is estimated based on historical available data, while future energy production is deduced from the available water in the catchment (estimated based on measured hydrographs of the past years), whereas electricity demand is assessed by correlating existing electricity demand with the estimated population growth and economic development. The maximum and residual hydropower potential of the basin were assessed for the mean annual flows of the present hydrological regime (1970–2000) and topographical characteristics of the area.

Computations were performed using an integrated GIS environment called VAPIDRO-ASTE released by the Research on Energy System (Italy). The residual hydropower potential of the basin is computed considering first that the water supply needs for population, industry and agriculture are served, and then hydropower energy is produced. The calculated hydropower production is found to be approximately half of the estimated electricity demand, which shows that there is a need to look for other sources of energy in the future.