Solar heating in one of the driest parts of the world

Date: 16 September 2013

It may seem obvious to use the sunlight as a source of energy in a place like the Atacama Desert in Chile where the sun shines 330 days a year. But large-scale solar heating facilities are long apart.


The Atacama Desert in Chile is commonly known as the driest place in the world, and evidence suggests that the desert may not have had any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971.
 
These days a solar heating facility located 100 km south of Calama in the Atacama Desert in Chile is taken into operation in order to take advantage of the impressive number of sunny days and create green energy.
 
Reducing the need for fossil fuel
The 39,000 m2 facility will heat water for some of the largest copper mines in the world. Until now, the Gaby mines have used diesel to heat the water they need, but the new solar energy facility will significantly reduce the need for fossil fuel and replace 20,000 litres of diesel a day on commercial conditions. This is an example that renewable energy can be competitive without any subsidies or energy taxes.


Solar heating facility in the Atacama Desert in Chile
 
Large-scale solar heating facilities are long apart 
It may seem obvious to use the sun as a source of energy in a place like the Atacama Desert where the sun shines 330 days a year. But in actual fact large-scale solar heating facilities are long apart. At sizes ranging from 40,000 to 80,000 m2, the four largest facilities in the world are presently under construction in Denmark:


“The reason why we can implement large-scale solar heating facilities in Denmark, which is not exactly known for its sunny weather, is that we have many district heating plants which can use the heat”, says Flemming Ulbjerg, who is the consultant for both the Chile facility and the four upcoming facilities in Denmark.
 
Start-up and trimming of the facility 
Ramboll has been responsible for the feasibility study of the Chile facility, an assessment of risks related to the financing of the project, and the detailed design of the facility. Presently, Ramboll is participating in the start-up and trimming of the facility, which is supplied by Danish Sunmark A/S.
 


Source: Ramboll