South America's Largest Solar-Thermal Plant Planned for Chile

Abengoa, an international company that applies technology solutions for sustainability in the energy and environment sectors, has been selected by the Ministry of Energy of the Chilean Government and Corfo (Corporacion de Fomento de la Produccion) to develop a 110 MW solar plant using tower technology with 17.5 hours of thermal energy storage using molten salts.

Located in the Atacama Desert, the region with the highest solar radiation concentrations in the world, the project will be the first solar-thermal plant for direct electricity production in South America.

Abengoa's won the international tender launched by the Chilean Ministry of Energy and Corfo to construct the first concentrated solar power plant in Latin America. As part of this tender, the project will receive direct subsidies from the Chilean Government and the European Union, as well as financing from the Inter-American Development Bank, KFW Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau, the Clean Technology Fund and Canadian Fund.

Solar-thermal tower technology uses a series of mirrors (heliostats) that track the sun on two axes, concentrating the solar radiation on a receiver on the upper part of the tower where the heat is transferred to the molten salts. The salts then transfer their heat in a heat exchanger to a water current to generate superheated and reheated steam, which feeds a turbine capable of generating around 110 MW of power.

The solar plant also will have a pioneering thermal storage system with 17.5 hours of storage designed and developed by Abengoa, which makes the technology easily manageable and enables it to supply electricity in a stable way 24 hours a day, responding to all periods of electricity demand.

Abengoa's new project will be located in the commune of Maria Elena in the Antofagasta region, northern Chile. The project forms part of Chile's national renewable energy program, intended to provide Chile with a cleaner energy future, while also promoting its economic development and reducing its dependency on coal and natural gas. Chile has set a target to produce 20 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2025.

The Abengoa project in Chile will prevent the emission of approximately 643,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year. The company says the construction, operation and maintenance of this plant will act as a catalyst for regional socio-economic development, creating a large number of direct and indirect jobs for the construction, development, commissioning and operation of the plant as well as a network of services that will promote economic growth in the country. Construction of the project is due to start in the second half of 2014.

In other solar news, Mosaic, the first U.S. company to crowdsource investments for solar projects, recently launched a New Year’s Resolution campaign to “Put Solar on It.” The campaign invites anyone to pledge to put solar on a local home, school, place of worship, business or other property on Throughout 2014, Mosaic says it will provide people with the tools and network they need to make their pledge a reality.

Oscar-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo is leading the campaign with his pledge to put solar on his children’s school, Stephen Gaynor Elementary, in Manhattan.


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