In mid-June, the Chilean president Michelle Bachelet signed the Paris Agreement, which promises a 30% reduction in Chile’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020. To achieve this, the public sector has initiated several projects, one of which was announced by President Bachelet in May this year. Santiago Metro has signed an agreement with both the solar plant El Pelícano and the wind farm San Juan, which will be fully operational by 2018. The agreement will meet all the energy requirements for Santiago Metro through the Central Interconnected System (SIC).
The two projects combined involve a state investment of more than $500 million. The issue is key in several respects. While the commitments of the Paris Agreement are currently in focus, the Chilean capital is midway through constructing two new subway lines, which will be ready between 2017 and 2018. In addition, one of the election pledges of the current administration is decongestion and reducing pollution in the city.
The Solar Potential
In recent years, Chile has become one of the countries with the greatest potential for solar energy in the world. Wind power also seems to be an increasingly strong option.Several multinational players in the solar industry have established operations in the famous Atacama Desert, due to the high levels of solar radiation (over 1,200 w/m2). It is estimated that in Chile there is 1.3 GW of electrical capacity in solar panels on a large scale (mostly in the north), generating a boom in the use of this technology. According to the National Energy Commission (CNE), in January this year, plans for the construction of solar power plants in the Northern Interconnected System (SING)accounted for 37% of all power plant initiatives, followed by carbon (33%) and natural gas (20%).
“Both the Government and the private sector were excited by the initial goal of generating 25% of energy from NCRE (non-conventional renewable energy) sources by 2025 and we are working towards this quota very quickly”, says Peter Horn, CEO of Heliplast, a Chilean-German solar solutions company with more than three decades in the field. In this context, El Pelícano (run by SunPower), located between the regions of Coquimboy Atacama, will have a capacity of 110 MWp, which is equivalent to the electricity generation required to supply an average of 100,000 Chilean households. All of the energy generated by this plant will go to Santiago Metro. “In association with Total, SunPower is committed to the continual growth of the local solar industry, especially with the demand for solar renewable energy at a competitive cost”, assured Manuel Tagle, general manager of SunPower Chile.
For its part, the wind farm San Juan de Aceituno (owned by Latin American Power), to be built in the Freirina district of the Atacama region, will have a capacity of 185 MWp, and will allocate 15% of the energy it generates to the subway. As a result, from 2018 the energy matrix of Santiago Metro will consist of 40% conventional energy (Chilectra), around 42% solar energy (El Pelícano) and 18% wind energy (San Juan Wind Farm). “While international experience has shown that several metro systems in the world have incorporated NCREs into their production process, Santiago Metro is a pioneer in incorporating such a magnitude of clean energy in its consumption matrix”, explained the state-owned metro.
Furthermore, in terms of actual impact, it is estimated that from 2018, the two new contracts will provide a countrywide emissions reduction of 130,000 tons of CO² per year, the equivalent of planting 7.8 million trees. “Together, these contracts will enhance the sustainable development of the company from an environmental perspective. This will allow Santiago Metro to provide a stable and competitive price, which on average, considering 100% of the energy matrix, will remain below $100USD/MWh”, added Santiago Metro.