Chile: A future without coal

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At the heart of the expansive Atacama Desert in northern Chile, a new green technology capable of powering a medium-sized city can be found.

The region has the highest level of solar radiation on the planet, making it the perfect location for the Cerro Dominador project — the first solar thermal power plant in South America. 

Instead of solar panels, the plant uses 10,000 mirrors, which reflect the abundant sunlight toward a 250-meter (820-foot) high tower. The heat generated there is used to create steam to drive a turbine generator, which in turn produces electricity. The energy can be stored for up to 17 hours a day. 

While 40% of its electricity currently still comes from coal, Chile aims to be CO2 neutral by 2050 and plans to decarbonize at least a third of its 23 coal-fired power plants. For many people in the country's northern cities, the existing fossil fuel industry is an important source of income and the move toward green energy presents an uncertain future. 

However, the technology featured in the Cerro Dominador project is set to be used for converting coal-fired power plants into thermal storage facilities. Repurposing them would ensure they still have work, while at the same time improving the quality of the air and water. The first plant using the new technology is scheduled to begin operating in 2025. 

A film by Claudia Laszczak and Eduardo A. Guaita

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6,12 min

Date of publication



Decarbonisation of the Chilean energy sector

Global Ideas

Global Ideas
The television reports and documentaries of Deutsche Welle's 'Global Ideas' media project provide people all over the world with information on model projects which implement biodiversity and climate protection. The media project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety through the International Climate Initiative.

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