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Enel, ENAP inaugurate 48MW Cerro Pabellon geothermal power plant in Chile

EBR Staff Writer Published 13 September 2017

Enel and Chilean state-owned energy company Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP) have inaugurated the 48MW Cerro Pabellón geothermal power plant built at around $320m in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

Cerro Pabellón is owned by Geotérmica del Norte, a joint venture controlled by Enel Green Power Chile, the Chilean subsidiary of Enel which holds a stake of 83.65%. ENAP holds the remainder participation stake of 16.35% in the project.

According to the Italian electric utility Enel, Cerro Pabellón, which has been built at 4,500m above sea level, is the first geothermal power project in South America.

Enel CEO Francesco Starace said: “The construction of Cerro Pabellón represented a technical and human challenge that we have been able to successfully tackle thanks to the effort of a highly specialised team that worked in the midst of the beauty and harshness of the desert.

“We hope that this milestone will be for Chile the starting point of a new path in energy development to boost the growth of its geothermal sector which can leverage on a significant potential and resource availability."

The 48MW Cerro Pabellón geothermal power plant comprises two units of 24MW each, with the second unit moving into operations recently.

At the end of March, the first 24MW began generating power to the Norte Grande transmission system. The second unit on the other hand is expected to be fully operational next month.

ENAP CEO Marcelo Tokman said: "Today we close a chapter in the quest to use geothermal energy in Chile and we begin a new stage.

“An effort of almost a hundred years, including the first geothermal committee created by CORFO and ENAP five decades ago, and which illustrates precisely the role our company has today to articulate projects and solutions that promote a sustainable energy future."

Located in the Antofagasta region in the Ollagüe district, the Chilean geothermal power plant has a capacity to generate about 340 GWh per year, once it is fully operational.

It can cover the electricity requirements of over 165,000 Chilean households and at the same time can offset over 166,000 tons of CO2 each year from reaching the atmosphere.

In late March, Enel Green Power Chile had secured a loan of $30m from the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) for the Cerro Pabellon geothermal power plant.