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Chile inaugurates the first solar thermal power plant in Latin America

Atacama Desert (Chile), Jun 8 (.) .- About 10,600 heliostats (mirrors), 392,000 solar panels and a 250-meter-high tower. These are the colossal dimensions of Cerro Dominador, the first concentrated solar power plant in Latin America, inaugurated this Tuesday in northern Chile, in the Atacama desert. Covering 1,000 hectares and located in an area with one of the highest levels of solar radiation in the world, 100 kilometers from the northern city of Calama, the project consists of two components: a 100 MW photovoltaic system, in operation since 2017 , and an innovative solar thermal system, with 110 MW of installed power, a pioneer in the region and inaugurated this day. Both components will jointly generate a total capacity of 210 megawatts and supply green energy to the Chilean electricity grid. “It is a plant that is on the frontier of knowledge and technology. There is no plant that has a better technology than this,” Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said during the inauguration. The project will help prevent the emission of 630,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is equivalent to the circulation of 135,000 vehicles per year, “more than the cars that exist in this region of Antofagasta,” added the president. With a total investment of 1,300 million dollars, the complex has financing from the European Union and the German Development Bank KfW, among others, and its main builders have been the Spanish Acciona and Abengoa. The Cerro Dominador solar plant is owned by a company of the same name, belonging to the US investment fund firm EIG Global Energy. THE SECOND HIGHEST TOWER IN CHILE One of the star elements of the project is the 250-meter central tower where the heat sink is located and at which the thousands of heliostats will point. It is the second tallest building in Chile, only surpassed by the Santiago skyscraper known as Costanera Center, measuring 300 meters and one of the tallest on the continent. Heliostats are mirrors with a reflective surface of 140 square meters and 3 tons of weight each, which follow the path of the sun moving in two axes, reflecting and directing solar radiation towards the receiver. Molten salts circulate through this receiver at a temperature of 560 degrees Celsius, transferring the heat to a circuit that drives a steam turbine to generate electrical energy. “Molten salts can be stored for up to 17.5 hours, which allows the system to continue operating even without direct sunlight and there is a reliable production of electricity 24 hours a day,” explained the CEO of the project, Fernando González. Chile, a country of 19 million inhabitants and a very extreme geography, with the desert to the north and the great forests to the south, is capable of producing 70 times more electricity than it needs today. “Chile was a country poor in the energies of the past, we had little oil, little coal, little gas, but immensely rich in the energies of the future,” said the president. In the last six years, the solar and wind participation multiplied by ten in the country’s energy matrix and renewable energies are expected to reach 70% of it before 2030, according to official data. In 2021, Piñera pointed out, more clean energy projects will be inaugurated in Chile “than in the entire previous history of the country,” with an installed capacity of almost 6,700 MW. “If we do not change the course we are going towards an ecological disaster, the citizenship demands us, as a moral imperative, to change that course and technology gives us the tools to do so,” he concluded. The next COP26 climate summit, to be held in Glasgow (Scotland) next November, will have a strong emphasis on the importance of ending global dependence on coal and on the opportunities of renewable energy, as it was released last month of May the organization. According to the current trajectory of carbon dioxide emissions, the temperature is projected to rise between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to the UN, which seeks to limit warming to 1.5 ° C. The United Nations believes that this goal “is not impossible” but that it “would require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society” and for which “the next ten years are paramount.” (c) . Agency

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