Torres del Paine National Park

Cerro Dominador, Chile, first Solar Thermal Power Plant in Latin America

Cerro Dominador Megaproject - Image: El Mercurio

"We are currently living a key moment in the fight against climate change, and projects like this are in line with what we want for Chile," said the bi-minister of Energy and Mining, Juan Carlos Jobet.
June 08, 2021 | Written by Tomas Molina J.
Source: Emol
A huge 250-meter-high receiver tower in the middle of the Atacama Desert is the symbol of an innovative project that is destined to become one of the main postcards of renewable energies in Chile. It is Cerro Dominador, the first concentrating solar thermal power plant in Latin America, inaugurated this afternoon by President Sebastián Piñera, the bi-Minister of Energy and Mining Juan Carlos Jobet, the Minister of the Environment, Carolina Schmidt, the Undersecretary of Energy, Francisco Lopez, and the Intendant of the Antofagasta Region, Rodrigo Saavedra.
"Having the first solar thermal plant in Latin America makes us key players in the global clean energy scenario", Jobet emphasized. "Innovation and new technologies will be crucial to reach the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and we have to take advantage of the potential that renewable energies give us", he added.
He also commented that "this is a very ambitious project that began in 2014 and its construction was completed by the end of 2020. Today we are inaugurating it after a successful process of gradual synchronization with the National Electric System, after overcoming all the difficulties brought about by the pandemic".
"We are currently living a key moment in the fight against climate change, and projects like this one are in line with what we want for Chile", he added.

How does solar concentration work?

The plant, located in the saltpeter Municipality of Maria Elena, Antofagasta Region, uses 10,600 mirrors (heliostats), each with a surface area of 140 m2, on a site of more than 700 hectares, which reflect the sunlight and concentrate the heat in a receiver located at the top of the 250-meter main tower.
"What is interesting and revolutionary about this plant is that it can generate energy both day and night, thanks to thermal energy storage", highlighted Minister Jobet, while also explaining that "photovoltaic energy as we know it so far is relatively easy to install and is becoming more and more economical, but it does not work at night".
"Concentrating solar power gives us energy both day and night and can achieve the same efficiency as a gas or coal-fired power plant. We hope that the Cerro Dominador experience will lead us to new concentrating solar projects and new efficient and innovative technologies to follow the path of energy transition", he added.
According to what was pointed out from the Government, this project, in combination with the photovoltaic plant that has existed at the area since 2017, will avoid the emission of about 640,000 tons of CO2 per year and will generate the equivalent of supplying energy to approximately 380,000 homes.