The Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) has signed a US$30 million corporate loan facility with Enel Group’s renewable energy subsidiary Enel Green Power Chile Ltda. (EGPC) to finance exploratory works for what could be the first geothermal power project in South America—the Cerro Pabellon geothermal power plant in Chile.
The loan will be funded by the Clean Technology Fund Loan (CTF), administered by the IIC. The loan will finance drilling costs of the exploratory phase, when other sources of financing are typically unavailable.
Cerro Pabellón was developed by Geotérmica del Norte S.A. (GDN), a joint venture controlled by EGPC (81.7%) and participated by Chile’s state-owned hydrocarbons company Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP).
The plant, with a capacity of 75 MW, is located in Ollagüe in the Antofagasta region, 4,500 metres above sea level in the Atacama Desert, and is the world’s first high enthalpy, utility-scale geothermal plant to be built at such a high altitude. The facility is comprised of three units each with a gross installed capacity of 25 MW
Two of the units were connected to the grid in early April and started delivering electricity to the Norte Grande Interconnected System (SING, or Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande) that serves northern Chile. The third unit is in planning (exploratory phase).
Once fully up and running, the plant will be able to produce about 340 GWh per year, equivalent to the consumption needs of over 165,000 Chilean households, while avoiding the annual emission into the atmosphere of more than 166,000 tonnes of CO2.
Cerro Pabellón incorporates the most advanced geothermal technology, which makes it well suited to the extreme conditions of an area marked by strong temperature fluctuations and very high altitude. To generate energy, the plant extracts geothermal fluid from the reservoir found during the project’s exploration stage, and once that fluid has completed generating electricity, it is injected back into the reservoir, guaranteeing the resource’s long-term sustainability.
Guido Cappetti, General Manager of GDN, said:
“Cerro Pabellón beginning to generate electricity is a major milestone for us in Chile. Thanks to our unique geothermal expertise, we have been able to harness part of Chile’s huge geothermal potential, strengthening Enel and Enap’s commitment to help with the diversification of the Chilean generation mix through a new renewable energy resource.”