After many years of researches and scientific experiments, it is more than safe to say that renewable energy sources are the future. One by one, all the countries that have a certain amount of solar activity on an annual basis start investing and planning to build alternative energy plants. When a country is ranked first in the world’s list of highest solar energy reception, then spectacular solar power plants are bound to be constructed. The country we are referring to is none other than Chile.
Abengoa, a Spanish multinational alternative energy corporation, is the designer and constructor of the Atacama project, as it was named. Abengoa is one of the leaders in the renewable energy industry, having designed and constructed projects all over the world.
The area chosen for this project is located in the northern part of the Atacama Desert. It s a region called Comuna de Maria Elena. As we mentioned earlier, it holds the record for the highest solar activity area all over the world, so choosing this place was an absolute certainty.
The first part of the Atacama project has already been designed. Its construction began last year. The facility consists of two parts, a photovoltaic plant, which is scheduled to start its operation by the end of the current year, and a solar thermal plant, scheduled to commence in the end of the first half of 2017.
The entire plant will have a total capacitance of 210 MW (Mega Watts, 1 MW = 1 million Watts) with almost half of that amount coming from the photovoltaic part. That part will have the huge number of 392.000 solar panels while the solar thermal plant will have around 10.600 heliostats.
The second part of Abengoa’s project, Atacama 2, was recently approved by the Chilean environmental committee. It will be as powerful as the first one, offering a capacitance capability of 210 MW. This will be also a hybrid facility, including both photovoltaic and solar thermal collectors. The cost of the Atacama 2 is around 1.2 billion dollars. It may seem a huge amount of money but the benefits of such an endeavor will be enormous, not only for the environment but also for the national economy of Chile.
Both parts of the Atacama project use a miracle of technology. It is called molten salts storage system and it has, literally, revolutionized the alternative energy industry. In short, it is an invention that allows the plant to produce electric energy even when sun beams are not present in the area, whether it is a cloudy day or night time. This is the main reason that the facility will be able to constantly produce electricity, 24 hours a day.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.