World Geothermal Congress 2020+1
March - October, 2021

Chile Up-Date: the First South American Geothermal Power Plant After One Century of Exploration


[Andean Geothermal Center of Excelence and Departme, Chile]

The first formal geothermal exploration campaign in South America (one of the firsts in the world), was launched at the early beginning of the twentieth century in the high Andean Cordillera of northern Chile. Since that romantic time, different methods to promote geothermal energy have been applied, most of them have failed to develop a generation plant. Moreover, in several world geothermal congresses organized on this XXI century, Chile (and the high Andean Cordillera, in a more generic sense) has been presented as one of the biggest unexploited geothermal provinces in the world. Chile’s geological conditions, placed on one of the most active subduction zones and with the highest concentration of active volcanoes, are evidence of the huge geothermal potential existing in the Chilean Andes. It wasn’t until late 2017 that Chile crossed the expectation phase and finally entered the geothermal club. Cerro Pabellón, the first geothermal power plant in Chile (and South America) began its operation at the altitude of the high Andean Cordillera (4500 m a.s.l.) through Geotérmica Del Norte (GDN), a joint venture between Enel Green Power and Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP). 48 MWe are currently in production, with a plan to expand its capacity with an additional 33 MWe during 2019. By 2020 Chile will have a total geothermal capacity installed of 81 MWe in the first South American power plant. In addition to this breakthrough, during the last years, strong efforts were conducted to increase geothermal direct use in the country, for heating spaces, greenhouses, wine industry and some other productive sectors. In this context, the remarkable role played by the Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA) has been significant in this direct use revolution. This geothermal research center has been granted with different funds from public institutions aimed to develop pilot projects, which are the first local experiences of this technology in each region of the country. These projects have been co-designed with the final users: school communities, farmers or indigenous villages. Regarding government stakeholders, important advances were made during 2017 on the base of the “Geothermal round table”, a public-private initiative supported by the Ministry of Energy and funded by the Global Bank. After one year of working sessions, the estimation of potential geothermal development by 2050 would range between 1300 MWe and 3800 MWe, with a total investment between US$ 9-25 billon. This adds to the compromise acquired by Chile in 2017 to reduce coal-based thermoelectric power plants, until they disappear completely from the energy matrix by 2050. This commitment opens an extraordinary window, as defined in the “Energy roadmap” presented by the government, for the definitive development of geothermal energy in Chile and the rest of South American countries

        Topic: Country Updates Paper Number: 01064

         Session 6A: Country Updates 6 -- Americas [Tuesday 13th April 2021, 10:00 am] (UTC-8)
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