Smart Grid

January 16, 2014

Abengoa Gets the Green Light to Construct South America's Largest Solar Power Plant

The Chilean Government's Ministry of Energy and Chilean Economic Development Agency Corfo (Corporación de Fomento de la Producción) have big plans for meeting future power needs, and have selected Abengoa to construct the largest solar-thermal power plant in the continent. The project uses green energy to transform 17.5 hours of Chilean sunlight into 110 MW of electricity per day, the first power plant of its kind for Chile. Construction will begin in the mountainous Atacama Desert, which receives some of the highest concentrations of solar radiation on the planet.

Abengoa has built several solar power plants around the world, most of which use solar-thermal tower technology. Like the tower they built in South Africa, this plant will use a series of mirrors called heliostats to direct sunlight onto a large tower. The heliostats are attached to motors that allow them to track the sun's movement on two separate axes in order to capture as much heat from the sunlight as possible, which is then aimed at the tower.

The tower is filled with specialized molten salts that efficiently transfer their energy to a heat exchanger, which generates superheated steam. This steam then powers a high-powered turbine to generate the electricity, much like how a nuclear power plant uses the radiation produced by nuclear fission to superheat steam for a turbine. The difference, of course, is that sunlight is much more environmentally friendly than decaying plutonium.

The solar plant will also feature a thermal storage system that has never been used by Abengoa before, which will allow the plant to produce electricity 24 hours a day. Technological advances like these showcase the forward-thinking practices that have recently taken Latin America by storm, making it a closely watched region for prospective enterprises.

By the year 2014, Latin America is expected to see a growth in Internet technology spending of over 10 percent, a larger growth than any other region predicted this year. Later this month, TMCnet will be holding its LatinComm Conference & Expo to showcase some of the opportunities that tech businesses can capitalize on in the multi-billion dollar Latin America market.

Edited by Blaise McNamee