Cerro Dominador, Latin America’s first solar thermal project, enters final construction phase


At an event attended by the ministers for Energy and Economy, the project demonstrated the progress of its Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant, with a 250 metre tower, making Cerro Dominador a pioneering initiative not only in Chile, but in Latin America. The plant will come into operation in early 2020.

Cerro Dominador began the final phase of construction, at an event attended by the minister for Energy, Susana Jiménez, and the minister for Economy, José Ramón Valente, showing the progress of the Concentrated Solar Power (SCP) plant, which will have a 250 metre tower topped by a receiver that will collect the heat projected by the nearly 11,000 surrounding heliostats.

This announcement follows the news that the company completed a financing agreement in May this year. The project has the backing of the banks (mainly international institutions), which have recognised the technical quality of the project, as well as the strength of our company, which has fulfilled every commitment established during this period.

“The first solar thermal plant built in Latin America enters its final construction phase today, consolidating a project that has been eagerly awaited since the current sponsor took control just over a year ago,” said Fernando González, CEO of Cerro Dominador, a local company controlled by EIG Global Energy Partners.

The CSP plant will provide 110 MW of power, in addition to the 100 MW from the photovoltaic plant already in commercial operation.

The total investment in the project is over $1.4 billion, making it one of the largest energy investments underway during this period.

A consortium made up of ACCIONA Industrial and Abengoa will build this stage of the project. The CSP plant will provide 110 MW of power, in addition to the 100 MW from the photovoltaic plant already in operation.

“Cerro Dominador is our first industrial project in Chile, and from here we expect to continue to grow. At ACCIONA, we were international pioneers in looking to solar thermal energy, and we expect to develop new projects with this technology in Latin America,” said Roberto Felipe, Director of Operations and Production at ACCIONA Industrial.

The CSP plant, with 17.5 hours of thermal storage capacity, can generate energy 24 hours a day, making this project unique among the Non-Conventional Renewable Energy (NCRE) initiatives in the country.

The complex, located in the María Elena commune, 60 km from Calama, will prevent some 870,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

According to Cerro Dominador’s CEO, Chile is at the cutting edge in solar technology, not only in Latin America, but also around the world.

The project has therefore become an icon for progress in the solar sector in Chile, and of the country’s efforts to become a solar leader.


How the plant works


Energy is collected through over 10,600 heliostats (large mirrors), distributed concentrically over more than 700 hectares. The heliostats track the sun with movement on two axes and concentrate the radiation on a receiver located at the top of the tower, in the centre of the circle.

The tower stands at a height of 250 metres, making it the second-tallest structure in the country. The receiver heats a flow of molten salts up to a temperature of 565° C. The salts are then stored in the system of tanks located at the base of the tower. These salts can then be used to generate steam and consequently, electricity. The cold salts are stored to be reheated in a closed circuit.

The heliostats or mega-mirrors were assembled primarily by women from the commune who were trained and hired through the “Espejos” programme, an important local initiative.

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