In Chile's Atacama Desert, a cautionary tale for bold renewable energy vows

(Reuters News, 30 Oct 2019) Falling solar panel costs, funding hiccups and new technologies make large renewables projects a risky bet.

Rising out of Chile's Atacama desert, the half-built Cerro Dominador solar tower reflects the challenge the South American country faces as it races to meet some of the most ambitious renewables targets in the world.

Chile, readying to host a major United Nations climate change conference in December, has already pledged to phase out coal-fired power by 2040 and be carbon neutral by 2050. But in a bid to hold other countries to further-reaching pledges, it is now looking for ways to bring forward its own deadlines.

A surge in lower cost solar panels from China in recent years has helped to place it within a whisker of its target to get 20% of its power from renewables by 2025.

A key concern now is how to store and transmit its bountiful solar and wind power, spreading it over 24 hours. That would help Chile make the leap to obtaining 60% of its power from renewables by 2035 and 70% by 2050, becoming, as environment minister Carolina Schmidt described it, "the Saudi Arabia of clean energy."

Enter Cerro Dominador, a $1.3 billion project announced in 2013, touting technology designed to make the renewable energy supply more stable.

Cerro Dominador's unique selling point is that - unlike traditional photovoltaic solar plants or wind powered-plants, which produce as long as their source is shining or blowing - it allows the sun's heat to be stored to generate electricity for hours afterwards, including at night.

External link

Reuters News, 30 Oct 2019: In Chile's Atacama Desert, a cautionary tale for bold renewable energy vows