The importance of geothermal energy for Chile’s energy mix of the future

The importance of geothermal energy for Chile’s energy mix of the future Cerro Pabellon geothermal power plant, Chile (source: ThinkGeoEnergy)
Alexander Richter 7 Feb 2021

In recent interview, Dr. Diego Morata of the Chilean Center of Excellence for Geothermal of the Andes (CEGA) highlights the important role geothermal energy can play for the future energy mix of Chile.

In a wider interview on renewable energy for the development of Chile, Dr. Diego Morata , director of the Center of Excellence for  Geothermal in the Andes (CEGA) discusses Chile’s energy agenda, including clean energy, the award of the ITL, and the work they are doing as the center to contribute to the country and its nexus with the FabLab at the University of Chile.

Energy is a key and strategic factor to achieve the economic and social development goals that the country seeks. This has led to drawing up policies on the matter that allow a path to be outlined, incorporating different actors, variables, knowledge and institutions.

The Faculty of Physical Sciences and Mathematics of the University of Chile has the Center of Excellence in Geothermal of Los Andes (CEGA), which leads different studies in this field. One of them was recently unveiled and addresses the potential that Puyuhuapi has to install a geothermal power cogeneration plant.

Professor Diego Morata, director of the center, addresses different axes that today are marking the discussion in the energy field. For this reason, he did not hesitate to give his opinion regarding the award of the Clean Technologies Institute (ITL), which Corfo awarded to the Associated Universities Inc (AUI) consortium.

A study led by CEGA is investigating the conditions necessary to develop a sustainable geothermal cogeneration plant in the south of the country. Regarding this research, the teacher comments that the country has great geothermal potential for electricity generation, distributed throughout its territory.

“A study carried out some years ago by CEGA, and that we are now in the process of refining it with new calculation methodologies, indicates that the geothermal potential to generate electricity in Chile would be of the order of 40,000 MWe. It is clear that it is not realistic to think that all this potential could be installed in Chile. But, on the other hand, it is sad to recognize that, despite this immense potential, today there is only one geothermal electricity generation plant in the north, Cerro Pabellón, with an installed capacity of 48 MWe and in an expansion stage during this period. 2021 to another 33 additional MWe ”, says Morata.

The teacher argues that, if the country had the appropriate economic conditions, in a reasonable period of 20-30 years, Chile could easily have around 2,000 MWe of electricity generation with geothermal energy, which, as he points out, is an energy that provides stability to the system and would allow the thousands of MWe that today are generated from coal to be safely replaced.

In the south, this source of generation is a reality that needs to be analyzed from another perspective, not just economic profitability.

“Our studies are showing that it is possible, from a technical point of view, to implement small geothermal generation (and co-generation) plants in the south. We are talking about plants that take up very little space, so the environmental impact is minimal, and that would allow both the generation of electricity and heat, being able to be used for, for example, district heating. In the south of our country, solar radiation is not intense and we are seeing that, with the reductions in rainfall, our rivers no longer carry the flows that were seen in previous years ”, he details.

To the above, he adds that: “Also, as a society, we have shown that the South of Chile does not want mega-projects that have a strong impact on the environment. So, without a doubt, geothermal energy should take the agenda of the energy matrix of this area of ??our country, since the potential is under our feet. It only takes the political will to take charge of what that source of energy would allow: significant energy independence, giving security and stability to our electricity matrix. And, of course, if we talk about heat generation (direct use of geothermal energy), it would allow us to decontaminate our cities and considerably reduce the electricity consumption associated with home heating ”.

Source: Open Beauchef