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Opinion piece: 2017 – the year of geothermal energy in Chile

Cerro Pabellon geothermal power plant, Chile (source: ThinkGeoEnergy, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 22 Dec 2017

In an opinion piece in a local paper, Diego Morata of the University of Chile writes about the year of 2017 in Chile, describing it as the year of geothermal for the country.

In an editorial piece, Diego Morata of the University of Chile wrote this piece on geothermal energy in Chile.

The year of 2017, will be remembered as the year of geothermal energy in Chile. This is thanks to the inauguration of the first geothermal plant in South America in the north, and the first greenhouse heated with geothermal energy in the south. The Cerro Pabellón plant, in the town of Ollague, at an altitude of 4,500 m and some 100 km from the city of Calama, injects 48 MW of clean, sustainable and indigenous energy into the energy matrix. It is an amount of energy comparable to that of electricity consumption in a city the size of Calama.

It has been a technological and scientific challenge (it is the highest geothermal plant in the world) and Chile should be proud of this achievement, recognised nationally and internationally. Thanks to the collaboration of the private sector (ENEL Green Power) with the state company ENAP, this year Chile has taken a big step to achieve a clean energy matrix, dominated by renewable energy sources, common desire to all political and social sectors of our country.

Meanwhile in Patagonia, a geothermal greenhouse has been inaugurated to produce vegetables in winter, something impossible until now without recourse to firewood in that area, which is one of the most polluted in the country. At the Center of Excellence in Geothermal Energy of Los Andes (CEGA) we have built the first geothermal greenhouse in Aysén, thanks to the Energy Access Fund (FAE) of the Ministry of Energy. With this initiative, the inmates of the Center for Education and Labor (CET) Valle Verde of Puerto Aysén, dependent on the Gendarmerie, will be able to produce lettuce and other vegetables throughout the year.

It is a small experience in terms of investments, but large in the social component that it implies. Geothermal energy can mitigate the energy poverty that exists in many areas of our country. It makes it possible for people living in areas with extreme climates to have homes with optimal comfort temperatures, as well as access to better food resources.

Next year we will also benefit a school community in Coyhaique, heating its dependencies with geothermal energy thanks to a project financed by the Fund for Innovation and Competitiveness (FIC) of the Regional Government of Aysén. This is a collaboration between different instances of the State to show the community concrete applications to decontaminate one of the cities with the worst air quality in our country. It will be a small grain of sand that will reduce environmental pollution due to the massive use of wood heating.

And yes, compared to other solutions, geothermal may still have a higher cost of implementation (and a very economical maintenance that is rarely mentioned) but it is worth asking how much does the health of the population of Aysén cost? And if we want to become capitalists, how many days of productivity and work are lost with medical licenses due to poor air quality?
Geothermal energy is known to be a source of clean, renewable and sustainable energy with the environment.

It is a source of energy that, given its technology, can be considered as base energy. And in our country we have geothermal resources from end to end of Chile, which would guarantee a distributed electricity supply throughout the country. Geothermal energy is a source of democratic energy, all regions can access it to meet their particular energy needs and therefore should be in the minds of those who govern us. We need as a country to develop geothermal energy. It is not a competition between clean energies. The sun is not enough. We have a long, extensive and beautiful country and we must take advantage, in a sustainable manner, of the different resources it offers us, and our Earth offers us the most powerful.

The article was written by Diego Morata of the University of Chile, a fellow board member of the International Geothermal Association.

He and his team hosted the recent Board Meeting of the International Geothermal Association and organised a fantastic field trip to the Cerro Pabellon geothermal power plant.

I would like to thank him and his team for a great time in Chile.

Source: el mostrador