The Commission for Environmental Assessment of Chile has approved the first initiative for the construction of a solar thermal plant using parabolic trough technology. The project named Pedro de Valdivia will be located in the Maria Elena communal area, and will be carried out by the Spanish company Ibereólica that will invest more than $ 2,600 million dollars in its construction, an historical investment figure in the Chilean renewable energy sector.
Totaling a capacity of 360MW, the facility will be divided into two phases of 180MW, which in turn will consist of two installations of 90MW each. The total estimated production of each plant will be around 512 GWh / year.
The project also includes the construction of two 220 KV double circuit transmission lines, which will be connected to the transmission line Atacama – Encuentro, through which energy will be fed to the Great Northern Interconnected System (SING) grid.
In order to operate this plant, a thermal fluid called HTF will circulate through pipes around the solar field. At a later stage, this liquid will be heated to 393°C as it flows through the pipes of the solar field. Then, the fluid must be pumped into the power area where it will be derived to a series of heat exchangers in order to produce superheated steam which is then introduced into a steam turbine so as to convert mechanical energy into electricity. The HTF will be sent back to the solar field and the steam will be re- circulated to repeat the cycle.
The great challenge of this project lies in the generation of power at night since it will use molten salt for storage similarly to other facilities in Spain.
Moreover, the Commission for Environmental Assessment also approved in this session two photovoltaic plants, Domeyco East and Domeyco 2 from the Helio Atacama company, which will be located in the Antofagasta communal area in the vicinity of the Escondida mine, and will provide 111.97 and 159.67 MW with an overall investment of 761 million dollars.
In this regard, the regional energy authority said “this vast arid area that has unique characteristics in the world, large areas of flat land, added to more than 3,000 sunshine hours a year, make this desert the perfect place for the development of solar energy in Chile”. This is the reason why the Ministry of Energy is working to allow the 32 initiatives that have now been granted the favorable environmental qualification resolution (RCA) to materialize in the short term.