West of the Andes, high in the Atacama Desert, a geothermal power plant built with state-of-the-art technology is accelerating Chile’s pathway to a clean energy future. Tapping heat trapped inside the earth, Cerro Pabellón is a geothermal power plant that will produce enough electricity to power over 165,000 homes.
"This is the first geothermal plant in Chile. I’m just proud and happy to be working here," said Jorge Pérez Vacia Lupo a safety officer at the plant.
Developed by ENEL Green Power and Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP), with support from the Climate investment Funds and the Inter-American Development Bank, the new plant employs over 1,000 workers and saves the environment from more than 166,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year.
While building the power plant, representatives from Indigenous peoples and local communities participated in project-related discussions to monitor the facility’s impact on their land.
Geological conditions at Cerro Pabellón offer optimal access to geothermal energy, but there is a downside. The plant is located more than 4,500 meters above sea level, making it the highest such facility in all of South America. Physical effort at this high altitude is considerably more challenging than at sea level, said Nurse Aileen Estay, part of the on-site medical team.
The success of Cerro Pabellón is proof that geothermal technology can be adapted to high altitudes when necessary. It is also helping de-risk geothermal power generation in Latin America.
When Nurse Aileen first arrived at the plant, she was enchanted with the view and the majestic surroundings. Now, she feels she’s part of something greater. Her work, she knows, is part of the bid to change Chile’s energy matrix.
“Ours is a view of the future!” she exclaimed.
Improved quality of life
Specialized jobs for community
Increased access to education
Consistent electricity not relying on weather
Decreased carbon dioxide emissions
CERRO PABELLÓN Chile
households with clean energy
new jobs created
MW total operational capacity
GWh power generated per year
tons of co2 eliminated
km transmission line