Chile inaugurates South America’s first geothermal plant

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Cerro Pabellon, the world’s first geothermal facility to be located at an altitude of 4,500 meters above sea level, has been inaugurated and is set to supply 165,000 households with clean energy, aiming at continuing to diversify the energy matrix. The country’s President Michelle Bachelet, along with Energy Minister Andres Rebolledo presided over the inauguration event for the Cerro Pabellon plant, a joint venture between ENAP and ENEL, located in the Ollague Commune, the region of Antofagasta.

This initiative will generate an estimated 340 GWh/year, equivalent to the energy consumption of 165,000 households, the President said, while also highlighting the continuous growth displayed by renewable energies since the beginning of her second period.

“Our challenge is that 70 percent of our energy matrix comes from renewable sources, but why not be optimistic and set out to reach 90 percent. These mountains witness the beginning of a path that will provide more endurance to our energy matrix,” stated President Bachelet.

Bachelet also added that “this type of projects benefit Chile, as they create investment options and attract technological innovation. This is the first project to definitely position Chile among the countries that have committed to inexhaustible, clean, and diverse energy.” In this sense, the president added that “is it time for action. It is in our hands to contain the climate unbalance by reducing emissions.”

Energy Minister Andres Rebolledo assured that this inauguration is yet another proof of the country’s energy development, in line with environmental care. Furthermore, he remarked the importance of teamwork between the private and public sectors, as well as state-owned company ENAP’s entrance into the electricity generation area.

“Participation from unconventional renewable energies in the matrix has tripled over the last four years and forecasts for the coming years are auspicious, since if we add hydroelectric power renewables reach 45 percent of the matrix. Cerro Pabellon is a unique type of power plant, as it is the geothermal plant located at the highest altitude in the world and will help prevent the emission of 166,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere,” according to the State Secretary.

Minister Rebolledo used this opportunity to highlight the boost that renewables have seen over this period, adding that “today, the energy sector is the leader in terms of investment with US$17 billion.”

The project, developed by Geotermica del Norte (ENEL Chile + ENAP) incorporates high-end technology to the development of geothermal plants, allowing it to accommodate to extreme conditions in an area marked by thermal oscillations and great altitudes. In order to generate electricity, the plant extracts the geothermal fluid from the reservoir, which was discovered during the project’s exploration phase, and once the fluid has completed the electricity generation process, it is injected back into the geothermal reservoir, thus guaranteeing long-term sustainability of this resource.

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