South America’s first geothermal power plant Cerro Pabellón, which was built by the Enel Group’s renewable energy subsidiary Enel Green Power Chile Ltda. (EGPC) and Chile’s state-owned hydrocarbons company Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP), has started delivering electricity to the Norte Grande Interconnected System (SING, or Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande) that serves northern Chile.
The 48 MW Cerro Pabellón is located in Ollagüe in the Antofagasta region, 4,500 m above sea level in the Atacama Desert, and is the world’s first high enthalpy, utility-scale geothermal plant to be built at such a high altitude. The facility is comprised of two units each with a gross installed capacity of 24 MW and is owned by Geotérmica del Norte S.A. (GDN), a joint venture controlled by EGPC (81.7%) and participated by ENAP (18.3%).
Once fully up and running, the plant will be able to produce about 340 GWh per year, equivalent to the consumption needs of over 165,000 Chilean households, while avoiding the annual emission into the atmosphere of more than 166,000 tonnes of CO2.
Cerro Pabellón incorporates the most advanced geothermal technology, which makes it well suited to the extreme conditions of an area marked by strong temperature fluctuations and very high altitude. To generate energy, the plant extracts geothermal fluid from the reservoir found during the project’s exploration stage, and once that fluid has completed generating electricity, it is injected back into the reservoir, guaranteeing the resource’s long-term sustainability.