ANTOFAGASTA – Together with Enel Green Power Chile, the National Petroleum Company (ENAP) is expanding the only geothermal plant in South America. The expansion aims to give Chile more possibilities when it comes to renewable energy. The plant is estimated to operate in 2020, creating 700 extra jobs.
The northern regions are not only suitable for large solar energy projects, another form of renewable energy is also extracted in the Antofagasta region. Through a joint venture between Enel Green Power and the National Petroleum Company (ENAP), Geotérmica del Norte extracts geothermal energy from the earth. The geothermal plants in the North are the only ones in South America.
Two geothermal plants are already operational: one of them is found on Cerro Pabellón, the highest plant in the world is found on 4,500 meters above sea level.
On this hill, a third geothermal plant is being built. The project is expected to be operational in 2020 and its construction creates an estimated 700 extra jobs.
This third unit will have a capacity of 33 MW, while the other geothermal plant on Cerro Pabellón has an installed capacity of 48 MW. With a total of capacity 600 GWh per year, around 470,000 tons per year of CO2-emissions get avoided.
|From UCSUSA.org: “Megawatts are used to measure the output of a power plant or the amount of electricity required by an entire city. One megawatt (MW) = 1,000 kilowatts = 1,000,000 watts. For example, a typical coal plant is about 600 MW in size.”
“Gigawatts measure the capacity of large power plants or of many plants. One gigawatt (GW) = 1,000 megawatts = 1 billion watts. In 2012, the total capacity of U.S. electricity generating plants was approximately 1,100 GW”
What is Geothermal Energy?
Under the earth’s surface, large quantities of thermal energy are contained in rock and fluids. From the famous magma from underground volcanoes to for example the thermal baths found throughout Chile: they are all products of geothermal energy.
Looking to slow down on generating energy that emits large quantities of CO2, such as coal-fired plants, countries are looking for alternatives. In areas such as the Chilean north, there are hot energy resources that are easier to extract as they are found just beneath the surface. Geothermal plants drill up to 1,5 kilometers into the ground, where the extracted heat generates electricity. And for Chile, in need of solutions for renewable energy, this can be the future.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.