In the past, energy projects in Chile that have involved hydropower have beenenvironmental nightmares. Damming of pristine rivers and running of transmission lines through environmentally sensitive areas have led to an automatic negative association between the words “Chile” and “hydropower.”
A new clean energy project set to break ground next year has a brand new approach to creating hydropower in Chile that won’t touch any rivers. In fact, it will be located in the world’s most arid desert — the Atacama Desert.
Chile currently imports a majority of its electricity, most of it generated from fossil fuels. The country has needed to find renewable energy solutions that could make it energy independent. Luckily, the country has three wonderful natural resources that can get it there: sun, mountains and the sea.
The Atacama Desert is located where the mountains meet the sea and it gets abundant sunshine, which makes it the ideal location for a new project that would use solar power to pump ocean water up into two reservoirs high in the Andes Mountains. The water would then be released to rush back down the mountain through pipes to a hydroelectric plant where it would generate electricity. Pumped storage hydro plants are not new, but this particular combination of using solar power to pump ocean water up a mountain, and at this scale, definitely is.
A view of the Runge reservoir in the town of Runge, some 60 km (37 miles) north of Santiago February 3, 2012. CREDIT: REUTERS/IVAN ALVARADO
Chile says drought here to stay, lays out plan to ensure water
BY ANTHONY ESPOSITO
With no end in sight to a drought that has blighted Chile for the last several years, the government will invest in desalinization plants and reservoirs to ensure access to potable water, President Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday.
The drought, which began in 2007, is hampering copper production in the world’s top exporter, exacerbating forest fires, driving energy prices higher and impacting agriculture.
In the usually lush and verdant south January was one of the driest since records began, with many places receiving zero rainfall. In the north of the country, home to the Atacama Desert, already the driest in the world, climatologists fear the spread of desertification.
Scientists say there is a long-term trend of increasingly dry conditions, linked to climate change.
“Faced with this critical situation, there is no choice but to assume that the lack of water resources is a reality that is here to stay and that puts at risk the development of important regions of our country,” Bachelet said in a televised speech.
Some $170 million will be invested in 2015 to access underground water sources, build and upgrade canals and improve irrigation systems, she said.
Chile: President Piñera Says Desert Growing ‘A Metre Per Day’
by Alison Depsky
Two-thirds of Chile is facing desertification, an equivalent of 48 million hectares, President Sebastian Piñera warned Monday. The Atacama Desert in the north of Chile, considered the most arid in the world, is growing by over one metre a day said Piñera.
Desertification is caused by indiscriminate logging, over or under irrigation, mismanaged agricultural techniques, and crops that generate erosion and organic material in the soil. The most eroded areas tend to be the poorest, areas where natural resources were used to rapidly fuel the country’s economic growth.
“Over one and a half million Chileans live and suffer the consequences of desertification,” Piñera said.
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