In September 2017, Enel and ENAP started operating Cerro Pabellón, South America’s first geothermal power plant and the world’s first large-scale plant to be built at 4,500 meters above sea level.
It is located in the Atacama Desert, in Ollagüe, Antofagasta Region and consists of two units with a gross installed capacity of 24 MW each for a total capacity of 48 MW. In full operation, it will be able to produce around 340 GWh per year, equivalent to the annual consumption needs of more than 165,000 Chilean households, while avoiding the emission into the atmosphere of more than 166,000 tons of CO2 per year.
The construction of Cerro Pabellón represented a technical and human challenge that we were able to address successfully thanks to the effort of a highly specialized team that worked between the beauty and harshness of the desert. This milestone represents the starting point of a new path in energy development to boost the growth of the geothermal industry, which can take advantage of a significant potential and resource availability.
This concluded the search for employing geothermal energy in Chile and started a new phase. An effort of almost a hundred years, including the first geothermal committee created by CORFO and ENAP five decades ago, and which illustrates precisely the role our company has today: to articulate projects and solutions that promote a sustainable energy future.
Likewise, Cerro Pabellón obtained the “Seal of Excellence in the Management of Greenhouse Gases” of the Huella Chile Program of the Ministry of Energy. It is the first time that a project in Chile receives this award that highlights the measures used at the base camp throughout the development of the project to quantify, reduce and neutralize greenhouse gas emissions.
Cerro Pabellón is a high-enthalpy binary cycle plant and incorporates the most advanced geothermal technologies to guarantee an optimum performance under the extreme conditions of its location, characterized by high-temperature variation and high altitude. In addition, the geothermal fluid extracted from the production wells, once completed the generation cycle in the plant, is injected back into the reservoir, guaranteeing the availability and long-term sustainability of the geothermal resource. One of the particular characteristics of geothermal energy is its ability to produce energy continuously, 24 hours a day.
The plant, whose construction required an investment of US$ 320 million, is owned by Geotérmica del Norte S.A. ("GDN"), a joint venture controlled by Enel's renewable energy company in Chile, Enel Green Power (EGP) and ENAP. The first 24MW unit began delivering energy to the Norte Grande transmission system (SING) at the end of March 2017, while the second unit is fully operational since October.
After the last electricity tender process, carried out by the National Energy Commission in 2017, both companies were awarded some of the blocks, which will trigger the construction of a third unit.