Renewable energy

Construction begins on Chile’s largest wind farm, in Coquimbo

The El Arrayan wind farm will generate enough energy to power 200,000 homes and offset 300,000 metric tons of CO2 annually, and is expected to create up to 200 jobs.

Friday, May 18, 2012 Category: Business - Technology - Enviroment
Wind turbines represent a new avenue of renewable energy for Chile. (Photo by Stephen Mellentine/Fli Wind turbines represent a new avenue of renewable energy for Chile. (Photo by Stephen Mellentine/Flickr)

Construction has begun on what will be Chile’s largest wind farm, the Parque Eólico El Arrayan, as the country powers toward its ambition of generating 20 percent of its energy requirements through non-conventional renewable energy by 2020.


Located 250 miles (400 km) north of the capital of Santiago in the Coquimbo Region, El Arrayan will use constant coastal breezes generated from the difference in temperature between the cold Pacific currents and the desert shores.


Using 50 of the Siemens 2.3-megawatt (MW) wind turbines, the wind farm will generate 115 MW every year - enough renewable energy to power up to 200,000 homes, without producing any emissions.


In comparison with a coal-fired power plant, the El Arrayan project will offset more than 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide - the equivalent of the annual carbon footprint of more than 70,000 Chileans.


Also, in an area where water is a precious commodity, the wind farm will conserve enough water to supply more than 11,000 Chileans with the precious liquid that would otherwise be used to cool generators in a coal-fire plant.


News of construction came as the parties involved in the joint venture - renewable power developer, Pattern Energy Group LP, Houston-based power utility AEI and Chilean mining company Antofagasta Minerals SA - announced they had secured the US$245 million required for the project.


That money will provide financing for the next 15 years.


“El Arrayan is our first wind farm project in Chile, marking Pattern's expansion into Latin America,” said Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy. “Chile is a market that we find very exciting with a world-class economy and a welcoming culture.”


The El Arrayan wind project is expected to have completed construction and to begin its commercial operations in early 2014.


During its construction period, the project will create 175-200 jobs, and up to 15 permanent positions once it is operational.