Enel and Enap inaugurate South America’s first geothermal power plant Cerro Pabellón

Published on Wednesday, 13 September 2017

“We are proud to inaugurate Cerro Pabellón, which is a milestone not only for us, but for all of South America and will help Chile to diversify its generation mix. The construction of Cerro Pabellón represented a technical and human challenge that we have been able to successfully tackle thanks to the effort of a highly specialised team that worked in the midst of the beauty and harshness of the desert. We hope that this milestone will be for Chile the starting point of a new path in energy development to boost the growth of its geothermal sector which can leverage on a significant potential and resource availability”

– Francesco Starace, Enel CEO

“Today we close a chapter in the quest to use geothermal energy in Chile and we begin a new stage. 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”

– Marcelo Tokman, CEO of ENAP

During the ceremony the Environment Minister Marcelo Mena awarded Cerro Pabellón’s base camp with the Sello de Excelencia en la Gestión de Gases de Efecto Invernadero (Seal of Excellence for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Management) as part of the Ministry’s Huella Chileprogramme. This is the first time that a project in Chile receives this award which recognised the measures implemented at the base camp throughout the development of the project to quantify, reduce and neutralise the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Cerro Pabellón is located in the Atacama Desert, in the Ollagüe district, Antofagasta region, and is composed of two units with a gross installed capacity of 24 MW each for a total capacity of 48 MW. Once fully operational, it will be able to produce around 340 GWh per year, equivalent to the consumption needs of more than 165,000 Chilean households, while avoiding the annual emission of more than 166,000 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere.

Cerro Pabellón is a high-enthalpy binary cycle plant and incorporates the most advanced geothermal technologies to guarantee an optimum performance against the extreme conditions of its location, characterised by high temperature variation and high altitude. In addition, the geothermal fluid extracted from the production wells, once completed the generation cycle into the plant, is re-injected into the reservoir ensuring the long-term availability and 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 facility, whose construction required an investment of around 320 million US dollars, is owned by Geotérmica del Norte S.A. ("GDN"), a joint venture controlled by Enel’s Chilean renewable subsidiary Enel Green Power Chile (83.65%) and participated by ENAP (16.35%). The first 24 MW unit started to deliver energy to the Norte Grande transmission system (SING, Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande) at the end of March, while the second unit will be fully operational in October.