Renewable energy reaches Ollagüe
Beginning in 2014, inhabitants of the town of Ollagüe, in the Province of Loa in the Region of Antofagasta, had electricity available to them 24 hours a day for the first time. It is the first hybrid plant in the world that combines solar and wind energy and co-generation with the storage of electrical energy in molten salt batteries, providing energy to homes at high altitudes and in extreme climatic conditions with temperatures between -20 °C and 20 °C.
The plant, which combines photovoltaic energy, a vertical-axis wind turbine, and a co-generation system for the production of electricity and hot water for the town’s school, has an installed capacity of 235 kW and will generate approximately 460 MWh per year, equal to the electricity consumption of approximately 150 homes.
Since the first hybrid plant in Chile entered into operation, oil consumption decreased by approximately 85%, the carbon footprint decreased, and the environmental condition of Ollagüe improved through the consolidation of a sustainable energy model. In so doing, annoying noises are no longer produced, and inhabitants are finally enjoying the electricity supply 24 hours a day.
This improvement has led to a drastic change in people's quality of life, as well as in the rural healthcare service, school, community center, municipality, law enforcement units, Customs, and in other services such as restaurants and accommodations.
Construction of the hybrid plant entailed an intense joint and collaborative work with the local indigenous community, who played a pivotal role in the project’s strategic definitions. The inhabitants, largely belonging to the Quechua community, were directly involved in the plant definitions and received training on the proper use of the system.
This innovative project, which saw the installation of over 1,600 photovoltaic panels, has become the first renewable energy hybrid plant for community use in Chile. This has been possible thanks to a public-private partnership between Minera El Abra and Enel Green Power, with the support of the Regional Ministerial Secretary of Energy, the University of Chile, and the municipality of Ollagüe, which is responsible for maintenance and administration of the plant.