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Milestone-Proposal:Rincon del Bonete Hydroelectric Plant and Transmission System

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Docket #:2011-05

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone Nomination

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on "Edit with form", check the "Submit this proposal for review" box at the bottom, and save the page.

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old?

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s fields of interest? (e.g. “the theory and practice of electrical, electronics, communications and computer engineering, as well as computer science, the allied branches of engineering and the related arts and sciences” – from the IEEE Constitution)

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity?

Was it of at least regional importance?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony?

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated?

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an Electrical Engineering Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

1937 to 1949

Title of the proposed milestone:

Rincon del Bonete Hydroelectric Plant and Transmission System

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?


IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

Milestone proposer(s):

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Departament of Tacuarembo, Uruguay

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need.

The plaque will be installed on an outside wall near the entrance to the Powerhouse, which is still in operation.

GPS coordinates are: 56° 25' 18.6" S, 32° 49' 55.5" W

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

As an important generating facility, the site is well secured. The plaque will be affixed to an outside wall, where the frequent public/students touristic/educational tours make a stop.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

The site is owned by the public electric utility UTE.

A letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property:

A letter or email from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application:

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

It was the first hydroelectric plant on the “Rio Negro” (Black River) Electrification Schema, located in the middle of the country and that including a long transmission system and two additional plants downriver. Those plants were effectively built later, and the electrical demand of Uruguay was almost completely covered by hydroelectric energy for decades. For the country, it meant the availability of abundant, clean, renewable energy and it made up for the lack of fossil fuels in the land. Furthermore, this made possible that the whole population could take advantage of early electrification, development, growth of the production and better quality of life. When the first generator went on-line in December 1945 and Energy generated from the river's water started flowing 232 Km to the capital Montevideo, the dream of energy available in the country was finally realized. The completion of the project during the difficult war years set a high mark for the Engineering Profession in Uruguay, who had to re-formulate and adapt the electromechanical equipment, changing the suppliers from Germany to the United States.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Initially, after winning an international bid, construction started by german firm Siemens in 1937. In 1939, World War II made delivery of equipment across the Atlantic Ocean almost impossible. Generalization of the conflict to America in 1942 -with the civil works almost finished- broke the contract, and qualified manpower was then impossible to obtain from the northern hemisphere. This situation posed insurmountable political and technical obstacles to the finalization of the original project. In view of this situation, “RIONE”, the state-owned company in charge of the project, commissioned a motivated group of six young Uruguayan Engineers to study in the US (with Harza, GE, Westinghouse, Allis Chalmers) so that they could participate proactively in the reformulation of the Project. The transformation of the project (50 Hz, german standards, metric system, ...) required considerable technological alterations in order to make it possible to integrate components made in different plants, following American Standards in a dam that had been specifically planned and constructed for German turbines and generators. Once back in the country, the equipment was installed entirely by local workers trained and directed by those Engineers and the project was finished successfully. This achievement, that also included design and construction the state-of-the-art 150 KV, 232 Km long Transmission System to the capital Montevideo, modifying and adapting as well the original design in order to make it compatible with the equipment procured in the US, set an internationally recognized high mark for the Engineering Profession in Uruguay.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

It was the biggest and most ambitious project in the History of the country, and of paramount social and economic significance, given the complete lack of fossil fuels in the country. The big reservoir was at the time (and for many years) the biggest artificial lake in Latin-America, almost 1% of the surface of the whole country! Technologically speaking, the uruguayan engineers that were investigating, working, and buying the necessary parts in the US, had to reformulate the original german project to accommodate US-delivered turbines, generators, transformers, etc. Considerable knowledge of the engineering principles involved and a good dose of ingenuity were necessary, at a time when the war efforts dictated fabrication and transportation priorities, and restricted severely the availability of materials and the delivery of heavy equipment.

References to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or citations to pages in scholarly books. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Media:RDB short History.doc