Expanding wind and solar energy use in Chile

A group of men installing an anemometer

Picture: GIZ

Thanks to its favourable geographical position, Chile has great potential to tap renewable energy sources. However, with the exception of hydropower, only relatively few options to generate energy from alternative sources have been exploited up to now. More than half of the power supply comes from conventional plants burning fossil resources such as coal, natural gas or oil. In response to this situation, the Chilean government determined by law, with effect from 2010, that 5 per cent of the electricity traded must come from renewable sources; the government further set the goal of increasing this proportion to 20 per cent by 2020.

Developing sites for wind farms and solar installations

To achieve these goals, the Chilean government is making state-owned properties available for private investment in this field. A project aiming to develop suitable sites in the north of Chile is receiving funding from the International Climate Initiative (ICI) and support from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The project partners have identified, evaluated and marketed suitable properties in the Atacama desert. To that end, they have conducted since August 2009 wind and solar measurements at several sites. Wind measurement masts have been installed at various heights above the ground, and a SODAR unit has been used to determine the vertical wind profile. In addition, solar irradiation levels have been measured at three further sites. The average potentials identified in this manner deliver data which can be used to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a specific area. In addition, the measurements have made it possible to produce a map of wind and solar potential for the entire region.

The project has also helped to develop technical and economic expertise in the Chilean Energy Ministry, while at the same time reducing project development costs and risks for companies interested in entering the Chilean wind market. Upon conclusion of the measurements, the Chilean government, with support from GIZ, launched a competitive bidding process for suitable sites in two areas of the Antofagasta region, where wind farms with capacities of up to 100 megawatts (MW) are to be erected. The government has also set aside a site for a pilot solar thermal power plant.

Results and replication

The Chilean Ministry of National Property is now planning to launch competitive bidding for another seven sites identified by the project. When the project concluded in summer 2011, the Energy Ministry installed further measurement masts, thus continuing the work. 

If the further wind plants are erected as planned, with capacities of 100 MW each, this would deliver annual CO2 savings totalling 340,000 tonnes. The project has laid the foundations for this outcome and has made a direct contribution to climate change mitigation and the establishment of renewable energies in Chile.

Chile, a key partner country of ICI, intends to continue its greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts. ICI is assisting Chile in that endeavour by supporting further projects. These involve, for instance, the calculation of energy scenarios for a future energy supply system, or the development of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) for urban electromobility. A further project with private-sector input is improving energy efficiency in public hospitals and is elaborating suitable financing schemes. Moreover, in a joint ministerial declaration of October 2011 Chile and Germany agreed German support for a Chilean solar energy programme.