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The project for building an hydroelectric power plant at the Atacama desert

ARCHIVO | J. Wierzchos
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In the middle of the Atacama desert, the most arid of the world,experts are planning the building of an hydroelectric power plant feeded by sea water and solar energy. It’s an innovative project which pretend to revolutionize the Chilean electrical market.

By using the best solar radiation of the planet and the particular geography of the northern Chile, where the mountain chain meets the Pacific Ocean, the Chilean company Valhalla pretend the construction of an hydraulic power station of pumping to generate 300 MW, capable to feed by itself at least 3 regions of the country.

“This is the only place in the world where it can be developed a project of this nature”, said Francisco Torrealba, co-founder and strategy manager of Valhalla at an exposition before international medias.

The project named ” Espejo de Tarapacá” ( Tarapaca’s mirror) is located at 100 km- southern of Iquique.

The plant will work using sea water without a desalinize process. The water is going to be pumped to 2 huge pools or natural containers located in the summit of the mountain chain, which is practically located next to the ocean.

Then the water will fall from almost 600 meters high to propel the turbines of electrical generation. The pumps which are going to allow the climb of the water will be activated through energy generated by a photovoltaic plant installed at 60 km of distance.

The sea water will be extracted during the day, when there is solar energy, while the electricity will be produced at night.

The two pools, equivalent to 22.000 olympic pools, allowed a level of storage which permit to the project the possibility to function without interruptions, finishing with the intermittence proposed by the most of the renewable sources and the no conventional sources, like the solar energy.

” The technology has been very proved in the world. It is this combination what has never been seeing before”, Torrealba added.

The exceptionals geographic conditions allow, in addition, minimum labors of construction, what reduces the environmental effects and the costs, estimated in 400 million dollars.

The plant received last week the environmental permits and currently the owners of the project are looking for private financing in order to begin with the construction at the end of 2016, with a deadline of building of 3 and a half years.

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