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Argentina sees renewed push for geothermal energy development

Los Altares, Chubut, Argentina (source: flickr/ Lisandro M. Enrique)
Alexander Richter 9 Oct 2017

A newly founded private sector initiative is pushing for geothermal development in Argentina and is seeing some support by the country's government.

Argentina’s Ministry of Energy and Mining has announced intentions to promote geothermal energy development. Private sector players have initiated an Argentine Geothermal Chamber to initiate conversations. They say that about 1,500 MW could be developed throughout the country.

Last June, the undersecretary of Renewable Energies of the Ministry of Energy and Mining of the Nation, Sebastián Kind , expressed “interest” in the development of geothermal energy projects. “It is estimated that the end of the year is new,” the official said.

Months later, in August, Kind again mentioned the topic and said that they are working “on defining the characteristics for a forthcoming call” to such ventures.

The official highlighted the geothermal potential, located in “the whole mountain range,” but warned about the “lack of maturation” of proposals that could currently be developed in the country. “Today there are no advanced geothermal projects except Copahue in Neuquén,” he explained.

Now, in order to boost the sector, private companies that were already struggling for the expansion of this clean energy decided to form the Argentine Geothermal Chamber (CGA), which was finally created two weeks ago: last September 26.

The objective of the new entity is to make known the benefits of this type of energy resource that is based and whose potential in the country lies mainly in the Andean belt, in the provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy, La Rioja, Mendoza, Neuquén , Salta, San Juan and Tucumán.

Experts from the CGA indicate that according to United Nations data, using state-of-the-art technology, at least 1,500 MW can be developed in Argentina.

In this respect, they emphasize: “If we compare solar energy (which is alternating / non-constant), the 1,500 MW of geothermal power is equivalent to approximately 4,500 MW of solar power.”

In an interview for Strategic Energy, Giorgio Stangalino, president of the CGA, gives precisions on the purposes of the development of the House and the potential of Argentina in this matter.

What kind of concrete policies should the Government push for these projects to progress in their construction?

In that sense, I can say that meetings will be held with the authorities of the Undersecretariat of Renewable Energy, in order to provide the International experience of the members of the Chamber, and in this way collaborate for an accelerated development of this energy sector in the country.

What projects could be identified at present and in what time frame could they be built?

The provinces that currently have geothermal fields in different stages of studies are: Catamarca, Jujuy, La Rioja, Mendoza, Neuquén, Salta, San Juan and Tucumán. In these Provinces, the currently estimated geothermal power potential is around 250-300MW.

This geothermal power production objective could be achieved in approximately 4 or 5 years, provided that the investments are constant.

At present geothermal projects with studies tainted with feasibility studies and positive pre-feasibility studies are as follows:

  • Province of Neuquén – Volcan Copahue geothermal project, finished thermal feasibility, with a confirmed initial potential of 30 MW.
  • Province of San Juan – Los Despoblados geothermal project, finished technical feasibility with an estimated initial potential of 15-20 MW.
  • Province of Jujuy – Tuzgle Volcanic geothermal project, finished technical feasibility with an estimated initial potential of 20-30 MW.
  • Province of Salta – Falla Tocomar geothermal project, technical prefeasibility in development with an estimated initial potential of 20-30 MW.

The aforementioned projects could produce geothermal power in a period of 2 to 3 years, based on a constant investment flow.

What are the advantages of this type of technology?

Due to its location in mountainous areas, in many cases remote from the interconnected network, geothermal energy is the ideal source (because it is basic and constant) for the sustainable development of mining activity as well as to supply populations located in remote areas .

It allows the creation of energetic poles of green hybridization in certain areas such as in the areas around the Tuzgle Volcano and the Tocomar Falla, Jujuy Province and Salta, where the strong production of solar energy that is intermittent can be complemented with base and constant geothermal energy.

Geothermal Energy, propitiates the development of hybrid solar-geothermal plants that has been applied for several years in the world.

At what price per MWh could these types of ventures operate?

We have to evaluate several factors, among the main ones we have the capacity in MW of the plant, the location of the plant and the type of customer to whom the service will be supplied if it is public or private.

Nowadays the specialists are analyzing the cost to the consumer of the geothermal energy, it is possible to emphasize that between the sources of renewable energy the geothermal does not compete with the solar nor the wind as these are of intermittent production whereas the geothermal energy is always constant .

Source: Energía Estratégica