Chile: a Leader in Green Energy Development
By admin August 14, 2017

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Chile continues to accelerate in its clean energy initiatives; two major developers announced this week that they’ve secured funding for huge wind farm projects. Mainstream Renewable Power and its Chilean counterpart, Aela Energía, have received $410 M to fund two wind farms in Chile and Mexico with a whopping 299MW of capacity, enough to power 460,000 households. This brings a close to the procurement of funds for the Sarco and Aurora projects. Multilateral and commercial banks including the Inter-American Development Bank raised the funds. The endeavor is expected to be completed in the second half of 2018.

Chile has emerged at the head of developing renewable energy since President Michelle Banchelet’s administration in 2014. The operations began after Chile experienced a severe drought, causing desertification of arable land. The effects of global warming have harshly hit Chile, causing multiple droughts and land deterioration.

Despite America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Chile and clean energy developers remain adamant about the need to change the energy sector. James Lee Stancampiano, the head of business development for South America at Enel Green Power, an Italian company that has played a leading role in overhauling Chile’s energy sector has spoken out against Trump’s negligence for the environment. “We see renewables as a train that nobody can stop,” he says. Al Gore, former US Vice President and Nobel Prize laureate, has also spoken out against Trump, and found optimism in Chile’s promising green energy future.

It’s apparent that there is a correlation between progress in renewable energy and lack of natural resources like fossil fuels. Chile is a paradigm of this situation: the country has almost no fossil fuels, and is planning to expand its renewable energy sector from 45 percent to 90 percent of the county’s energy sources. In 2007 Chile faced an energy crisis when Argentina abruptly cut off oil shipments. Even Argentina is expanding its clean energy to reach 20 percent reliability. Chile’s energy minister, Andrés Rebolledo, said, “We had a sector with very few actors, little competition and high prices.”

Parinacota Volcano, a dormant volcano in the Andes mountain range, at the boarder of Chile and Bolivia in Lauca National Park

The conditions of areas perfect for capturing energy are extreme to say the least. Workers must wear special protective gear to shield from the strength of the sun. These locations make for excellent solar panel spots. Geothermal areas require technology to extract energy from the steam deep inside the Earth, near volcanic sites. The steam is propelled back into the Earth using injection wells through a noninvasive process. Unlike hydro-projects that risk causing damage, these projects and methods are eco-friendly, and actually socio-friendly as well.

Plants for renewable energy have also benefited rural areas, while hydropower has displaced and threatened thousands in Latin America. Sergio Arancibia, the site manager at a geothermal plant and previously involved in the oil sector, claims that he appreciates this project because it, “guarantees or minimizes the possibility that these small towns will succumb or disappear with time,” as he’s seen in his previous line of work. Mayor Carlos Reygadas Bavestrello of the small town Ollagüe stated that the quality of life in the area has significantly improved. The town that previously had blackouts at 1 am now receives electricity 24/7.

The mayor commented that his town no longer feels isolated. Moreover, these energy projects have allowed for other developments like education. Ollagüe will soon have a high school instead of sending kids to larger cities for schooling. Enrollment rates are expected to rise as a result.

Further Reading:

Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes


In Chile, Many Regard Climate Change As The Greatest External Threat

Chile taps its most abundant resource

Optimism rules in “An Inconvenient Sequel”

Chile green light for SolarReserve

Latin American renewables sector enjoys twin funding boost

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