Chile solidifies its worldwide leadership in Solar Energy
- Over 500 people, including scientists, academics, and representatives of the solar industry recognise Chile’s leadership in solar energy
“It is great to see that Chile knows that the future lies in renewable energy, particularly solar energy,” said Manuel Blanco emphatically, an expert in thermodynamics, heat transfer, energy systems optics, and modeling, an authority in solar energy who was the host of the Executive Committee of SolarPaces 2017, whose annual conference was held for the first time in South America.
Blanco highlighted the work being done in Chile to fulfil the goal of producing 70% of electricity from clean sources by 2050. Even President Michelle Bachelet, in a pre-recorded greeting to the Conference, said that “we can get up to 90%.” Many officials attended the event, a sign interpreted by the participants as a proof of the interest in developing solar energy and public policies in Chile.
“The SolarPACES Conference is a clear sign that the policies we have promoted have made waves throughout the world,” said Andrés Rebolledo, Minister of Energy and host of the meeting in Chile.
The Minister of the Environment, Marcelo Mena, highlighted the progress of renewable energy, particularly solar energy, and stated that one of Chile’s goals is for this energy to become a hallmark of Chile’s fight against climate change. “We have created the conditions for cleaner and cheaper energy. And we will continue to do so in the future,” said Mena.
This opinion is shared by the experts who attended SolarPaces 2017. Luis Crespo, President of the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association (ESTELA) and one of the world’s leading experts in the field, says that Chile has all the conditions to become a global powerhouse in solar energy. “A country that has all the conditions, proven by the interest generated by SolarPACES,” Crespo said. His opinion is shared by Mark Mehos, Group Manager of Thermal Systems Research and Development of the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), who believes the CSP market in Chile has all the potential to be relevant. “We do not know when, it depends on costs and other factors, but the availability of this magnificent solar resource ensures that we will see progress in concentrated solar power in Chile,” he said.
In fact, despite the apprehensions due to Chile’s remote location, the SolarPACES conference had a great turnout. “Today, Chile is a relevant actor in solar energy, the uniqueness of the desert makes the world pay attention to our development. The challenge now is to take advantage of these perfect conditions and solidify our solar industry,” said Rodrigo Mancilla, Executive Director of CORFO’s Solar Committee.
These conditions were also highlighted by the Chilean Economic Development Agency’s (CORFO) Executive Vice-president Eduardo Bitrán, who noted that the challenge is integrating lithium and non-metallic mining with solar energy. “Lithium and cobalt are key for electro-mobility,” Bitrán said. The experts believe that electro-mobility opens up unanticipated opportunities for developing the solar industry, an opinion shared by the Ministry of Mining. “As a country, we have an opportunity with lithium and the energy industry,” said Erich Schnake, Undersecretary of Mining, to the audience during one of the SolarPACES presentations.
The SolarPACES Conference reaffirmed the international perspective on Chile’s options in solar energy, particularly concentrated solar power. The Atacama Desert boasts the highest levels of solar irradiance in the world and it is becoming the driver that will change our energy grid.