Renewable energy projects that are changing the face of the country
To reach the target of carbon neutrality, one of the key players will be Non-Conventional Renewable Energies (NCRE). On Earth Day, we profile a series of innovative projects that place Chile at the forefront of global clean energy generation.
The aim is as clear as it is ambitious: between now and 2050, the goal is for Chile to be the first developing nation to reach carbon neutrality. In other words, Chile must be able to absorb as many CO2 emissions as it generates, causing practically zero environmental impact, and to reach that goal, renewable energies play a key role.
According to industry figures, so far in 2021 the use of Non-Conventional Renewable Energies (NCRE) total 25% of energy generated, with solar photovoltaic and wind energy plants leading the way. Law 20/25, which aims for NCRE to represent 20% of the total generated energy in the country between now and 2025, has already been exceeded by far. According to figures by the Asociación Chilena de Energías Renovables y Almacenamiento (ACERA, Chilean Renewable Energy and Storage Association), in December 2020, NCRE use was already at 22%. With this target already reached, the Energy Ministry is working on updating regulations to reach 70% by 2030, pushing up this goal by 20 years.
According to a report by REN21 entitled “Renewables in Cities 2021 Global Status Report,” Chile is among the leaders in Latin America in renewable energy investments: Chile reached US$ 4.9 billion last year, falling only behind Brazil (US$ 6.5 billion).
On Earth Day, here we profile some renewable energy projects that are starting their operations phase to change the face of our country.
Cerro Dominador, Latin America’s first concentrated solar power (CSP) plant. Located in the Atacama Desert (in the Antofagasta Region), this has become one of Latin America’s most emblematic renewable energy projects, using tower concentrated solar power and photovoltaic technologies. The project, which was successfully synchronized with the Chilean electricity system this month, uses 10,600 mirrors (heliostats) that reflect the sunlight and concentrate heat in a receiver located on the top of a 250-meter (820-feet) high tower. This plant was built by a consortium formed by Spanish companies Acciona and Abengoa on behalf of their US-based owner, EIG Global Energy Partners, and will be 100% operational in the upcoming months.
Cerro Pabellón, South America’s first geothermal power plant and the highest in the world. In September 2017, South America’s first geothermal power plant started operating. It was the world’s first large-scale plant to be built at 4,500 meters above sea level. It is located in the Atacama Desert (Antofagasta Region) and has the capability to supply 165,000 Chilean homes, avoiding more than 166,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year. Geothermal energy comes from heat generated from inside Earth itself, arising through volcanoes, which is why Chile has great geothermal potential. The plant is run by Geotérmica del Norte (GDN) comprised of the companies Enel and Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP).
Luz del Norte Solar Park, first solar power plant in the world to offer ancillary grid services. The photovoltaic plant located in the Atacama Region is the first large-scale solar plant in the world authorized to provide ancillary grid services commercially. The plant has the capacity to produce energy equivalent to the energy supply for 174.000 homes and is owned by First Solar, a US-based company.
Putaendo solar plant, Chile’s largest floating solar power plant: in September 2020, the solar plant in Putaendo (Valparaíso Region) was inaugurated. It generates renewable energy for the distribution network while reducing water evaporation. Located on 1500 m2 of the Agrícola Mataquito-Hortifrut dam, it generates 100% of the energy needed for this company with its 456 solar panels. The project was developed by Solarity, a Chilean company.
Chile´s first hybrid industrial power plant. In 2020, Enel Green Power started the construction of the Azabache photovoltaic solar park in the Antofagasta Region. This park will operate together with the Valle de los Vientos wind farm, making it the first hybrid industrial power plant in Chile, using photovoltaic panels and wind turbines.
First floating solar plant built over tailings in the world. In 2019, Anglo American began operation of the world’s first floating solar plant built over a tailings pond in Colina (Metropolitan Region). The Las Tórtolas plant has 256 photovoltaic panels, each with the capacity to generate 86kWh, and supplies energy to the Los Bronces mine.
The world’s southern-most photovoltaic park. In 2018, the Las Palomas photovoltaic plant was inaugurated in the municipality of Bulnes (Ñuble Region). The world’s southern- most photovoltaic park was developed by oEnergy, a Chilean company.