An enormous tower rising 250 meters above the Atacama Desert is the emblem of an innovative project that is destined to become a major landmark in Chile’s renewable energy sector. The Cerro Dominador solar complex, Latin America’s first Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant, was inaugurated this morning by President Sebastián Piñera, Energy and Mining Bi-Minister Juan Carlos Jobet, Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt, Energy Undersecretary Francisco López and Governor of the Antofagasta Region, Rodrigo Saavedra.
“Chile is leading the world’s transition to clean and innovative energy, just like the energy that will be generated by this plant 24/7. Innovation and new technologies are essential to achieving carbon neutrality targets by 2050. That is why we will continue to work on supporting and promoting projects that will improve Chileans’ quality of life and help decarbonize the planet. Chile has the best solar and wind resources in the world, renewable resources that will help stop global warming. We need to take advantage of Chile’s potential, to enjoy better energy and become the country that we want to be: dynamic, sustainable and whose development focuses on people’s well-being,” emphasized the Energy Minister.
Juan Carlos Jobet stressed, “this is a very ambitious project that began in 2014 and was completed at the end of 2020. Today, we are inaugurating the plant, following a successful process of gradual synchronization with the National Electricity System and having addressed all of the issues that arose due to the pandemic.”
Mr. Jobet also noted, “we are currently going through a key period in the fight against climate change and projects like this one are exactly what we want for Chile.”
The plant is located in the nitrate town of María Elena in the Antofagasta Region. It uses 10,600 mirrors (heliostats), each measuring 140 sq. meters, and covers a total area of more than 700 hectares. The mirrors reflect sunlight, concentrating the heat in a receiver positioned at the top of the 250-meter central tower.
“What is interesting and revolutionary about this plant is that is can generate energy day and night, thanks to its ability to store thermal energy,” Minister Jobet explained. He continued, “photovoltaic energy, as we know it today, is relatively easy to install and is becoming less expensive, but it does not work at night. Concentrated solar energy provides energy day and night and can achieve the same level of efficiency as a coal or gas power plant. We hope that our experience with Cerro Dominador leads us to develop new concentrated solar projects and new efficient and innovative technologies, so that we can continue down the road to energy transition.”
The project, when combined with the photovoltaic plant that has been in operation at the same site since 2017, will prevent the emission of close to 640,000 tons of CO2 per year and will generate enough electricity to supply approximately 380,000 homes.