TEGUCIGALPA – The Honduran government and Chinese company Sinohydro have signed an agreement to begin construction next year of three hydroelectric power stations on the Patuca River.
The Honduran president’s office did not indicate the cost of the dams but said the memorandum of understanding stipulates that Sinohydro will fund the project with loans from Chinese financial institutions.
It said the three hydroelectric dams on the Patuco River, one of the Central American country’s longest and most voluminous, will have a combined generating capacity of 524 MW.
The Patuca River runs for some 500 kilometers (310 miles) through Olancho and Gracias a Dios provinces, which border Nicaragua, before flowing into the Caribbean Sea.
The document was signed at the presidential palace by Honduran Finance Minister William Chong Wong and Sinohydro Vice President Son Dong Sheng, in a ceremony attended by Honduran President Porfirio Lobo and other top officials.
“I’m determined to promote these types of projects and make Honduras more open to all foreign investors who come and commit to our development,” Lobo said in a statement.
Plans for these hydroelectric projects date back to the 1998-2002 government of Carlos Flores, while the administration of Mel Zelaya, ousted in a 2009 coup, signed an agreement with Taiwan for the construction of one of power stations.
Taiwan later pulled out of the project because the bank that was going to provide the funding was facing problems stemming from the global recession, Honduran sources said.
Honduras is one of 23 countries worldwide that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a rebel province of China.
The country has current installed capacity of almost 1,400 MW, around 60 percent of which comes from thermoelectric sources, according to the state-owned ENEE electric utility.
Honduras’ largest hydroelectric power station is the 300 MW El Cajon, which has been in operation for the past 25 years and is the largest in Central America. EFE