The lives of many families from the Alto Loa communities, in the Antofagasta Region are changing. A few kilometers away from the Ollagüe community, specifically in Cerro Pabellón, the first cutting edge binary geothermal power plant in South America began operating this year, which has generated multiple benefits to more than six Quechua and Atacameño communities in the area.
Cerro Pabellón forms part of the heart of the Andean highlands. It is located on the border between Chile and Bolivia, at an altitude of 4500 meters in the Atacama Desert. At that altitude, every physical effort greatly tires you out, which is why a slow walking pace becomes an absolute necessity, either under the scorching midday heat, or exposed to the bone-chilling cold wind at sundown.
Energy for the people
Each one of the projects led by Enel Green Power begins in silence, away from the noise and lights. One of the first steps is to open a dialogue with the communities in order to coexist in a certain territory and to reach agreements that include sustainability as the fundamental axis, all within the framework of its policy towards the creation of shared value.
The area where Cerro Pabellón is located is a territory with a strong indigenous demand. Surrounded by the villages of Ollagüe, Estación San Pedro, Taira, Cupo, Toconce, and Conchi Viejo, there has been a socialization process for the project, including plans for social, patrimonial, cultural, and economic development for all the communities.
Among these initiatives, there are two directly associated with the introduction of electric power for the people. One of them is an “Off Grid” system for the people in Ollagüe, where the community itself is empowered regarding the operation and maintenance of a hybrid plant (solar, wind and backup batteries) which enables their access to electricity 24 hours a day.
The other line of action is the Barefoot College, which consists of an international program, backed by Enel, addressed to women in isolated communities, in order to train them as Solar Engineers in India, enabling them to bring renewable energy to their communities.
Contributing to the desert with our grain of sand
Enel Green Power also supports the creation of small and medium size enterprises around the Cerro Pabellón project. In that regard, they have provided technical assistance towards forming different micro enterprises in direct benefit of the community members, with a clear emphasis upon women of Quechua origin. Among these cases we may find small and medium size enterprises involving:
Cleaning services: which has 11 persons responsible for cleaning the camp facilities, such as common areas, administrative offices, and the polyclinic in the camp. The service has been enhanced by means of hydro-washers and industrial cleaning machines.
Personnel transportation services: including 5 employees and two vehicles transporting 50 workers daily.
Cold snacks services: snacks with a monthly stock of approximately1000 units, run by the Anza – Achu family.
Laundry and kiosk service: two small and medium size enterprises handling the laundering of nearly 3000 kilograms per month of white work clothes. Meanwhile, Marta Cruz offers snacks and personal hygiene supplies to the employees living there in the different shifts.
Toconce Bio constructors: a group dedicated to construction based upon indigenous techniques, through the use of stone and mud. They have been trained in architecture, civil construction, reading blueprints, planimetry and land evaluation, in order for them to comply with the building standards in force.
The Cerro Pabellón project has an ecological footprint management model which deals in reducing the water and carbon footprints, as well as in reducing the waste generated. The “Neutral Carbon Camp” is an initiative under development seeking to create the first sustainable camp able to compensate its carbon footprint by means of a management model involving:
Carbon footprint: calculation of air emissions and neutralization of the footprint during the camp construction and operation stages.
Water footprint: calculation of the water use according to its origins, a 15% reduction of its consumption and impacts.
Waste management: identification of the reduction, mitigation, and recycling measures that allow minimizing the project’s waste by 30%.
Likewise, the “Program for Rural Electrification” is under development, for the communities of the Alto Loa (Toconce, Ascotán, Cebollar, Cupo, Taira and Estación San Pedro), which consists in the installation of solar kits in the villages in order to supply them with solar electric power instead of using diesel fuel, which only offers them a couple of hours of autonomy.
Pioneers in geothermal power
With more than one century of experience in the geothermal power field, Enel Green Power has assumed the challenge of developing the enormous potential concealed in the Chilean desert, in order to, in this way, contribute to the diversification of the power matrix of the country.
Apart from the fact that this plant holds the record for being the highest altitude geothermal plant built in the world, Cerro Pabellón is a plant formed by two 24 MW units with a gross installed capacity of 48 MW. The power it generates is part of the Norte Grande Interconnected System (SING), where it will be able to produce nearly 340 Gwh every year, equivalent to the consumption requirements of some 165,000 Chilean homes, thus preventing the annual emission of more than 166,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The Cerro Pabellón project means the discovery of a new world of opportunities through the energy of the Earth. It means the opening of safe, sustainable access to an innovative energy, which in a few years will help the desert to flower with new opportunities for the people.