Solar energy growth in Chile.
Chile is on track to becoming the first Latin American nation to attain the status of a developed country. The country has been working to establish itself as an economic force and improve its business and political infrastructure for more than a decade. As of 2010, Chile’s GDP was more than $15m000 per capita – significantly higher than its neighbors. The country’s economy is estimated to have grown by 6.5% in 2011, a trend that is expected to continue. Chile may be on track toward becoming a developed country, but such a status has raised serious concerns over the country’s energy infrastructure.
Late last year, a catastrophic power outage left more than 10 million Chileans without power. In a country whose population is just over 17 million, such a major outage caused serious damage to Chile’s economy. Though the power was out for only a few hours, the event confronted politicians with the subject of Chile’s energy future. Now, Chilean leaders are looking to invest heavily into alternative energy, with a keen interest in solar, in the hopes of averting future disasters.
Chile relies on an extensive network of hydroelectric energy systems, which account for nearly 40% of the country’s energy demand. These energy systems are not popular with citizens because of the extensive damage they have caused to natural habitats due to the flooding they create. Despite its unpopularity, the government has plans to continue its reliance on hydroelectric power, but does have interest in expanding its use of wind and solar energy.
MPX Energia, a solar energy company, is currently looking to build a 200 megawatt solar energy system in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The desert receives more solar radiation than any other location in the world, making it an ideal place for collecting solar power. The company already has the approval of the Chilean government, but has been having difficulty finding a suitable location to build the solar energy farm in the desert. This is only one solar energy project taking root in the country and the government has plans to continue investing in alternative energy as a way to break away from foreign sources of power.