Enel Chile plans for 40MW Apacheta plant to go online by 2014

Apacheta, Laguna Minique/ Atacama Desert, Northern Chile (source: flickr/ Cissa Ferreira, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 19 Aug 2010

Enel Chile, a unit of Italian power utility Enel SpA is continuing its plans for the Apacheta 40 MW geothermal project in northern Chile and expects to start operations by 2014.

Reported from Chile, “Utility Enel Chile,  is taking steps to open a 40-megawatt geothermal electricity plant in 2014, the company’s president, Oscar Valenzuela, said today” so the Wall Street Journal.

Enel Chile, a unit of Italian power utility Enel SpA (ENEL.MI), is developing the so-called Apacheta geothermal project in northern Chile, which still requires environmental approval.

The Apacheta project’s progress will likely lead to the opening of a 40-megawatt geothermal electricity plant in four years, Valenzuela said at an energy conference.

The plant would generate 300,000 megawatt hours of electric energy each year, he added.

“We hope that in the first few months of next year, we will be able to make the decision to build a plant,” Valenzuela said.

Until then, Enel must complete the drilling phase of the project, whose four wells have already shown good results and proven the existence of significant geothermal resources in northern Chile, he added.

The Andean nation has a high potential for geothermal energy, with a capacity as high as 3,000 MW, the executive said.

In addition to its abundant resources, Chile is an attractive country to build a plant because of the stable political government’s positive disposition toward renewable energy sources.

“We see that there is an environment of political stability; we have a country that is dedicated to renewable energy,” he said.

Chile’s current administration aims to have 20% of its energy sources come from nonconventional sources, like solar, wind and geothermal, by 2020.

Challenges remain, however, especially the lengthy process of getting environmental approval from the government and the lack of the necessary drilling machinery within the country.

“Sometimes we have to wait months for equipment to arrive [from other countries],” he said.

Enel participates in two Chilean joint-venture geothermal companies: Empresa Nacional de Geotermica S.A., with Chilean state oil and gas company Empresa Nacional del Petroleo SA, or ENAP, and Geotermica del Norte S.A., with ENAP and state copper-mining company Corporacion Nacional del Cobre, or Codelco.”

Source: Wall Street Journal