Green steam

Chile and New Zealand to enter geothermal energy partnership

A strategic partnership between the two nations hopes to tap Chile’s massive potential in the renewable energy resource.

Monday, June 17, 2013  
Geothermal well near Tolhuaca Volcano in southern Chile. Photo by GeoGlobal Energy Chile. Geothermal well near Tolhuaca Volcano in southern Chile. Photo by GeoGlobal Energy Chile.

 

President Sebastián Piñera and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key have released a joint statement outlining plans to utilize the island nation’s knowhow in geothermal energy and develop a strategy to unlock Chile’s latent potential in the industry.

Geothermal plants heat water with energy generated from hotspots in the Earth’s crust, and use the resulting steam to power turbines and generators. Chile has 10 percent of the world’s volcanoes, 20 percent of the world’s active volcanoes, and sits behind only Indonesia in geothermal energy potential. In 2012, South America’s most productive geothermal well was unlocked via exploratory drilling by GeoGlobal Energy Chile near Tolhuaca volcano in the Araucanía Region.

Strides are being taken to add non-conventional renewable energy to Chile’s energy matrix, especially in solar and wind power generation, however the country as yet does not generate any energy through geothermal means. This is partly due to lack of investment incentives, and turning New Zealand based geothermal energy companies’ attention toward Chile will be one aspect of the partnership.

“The leaders (Piñera and Key) discussed energy, in particular Chile’s desire to increase the share of non-conventional renewable energies in its energy mix,” the joint statement said. “Prime Minister Key spoke of New Zealand’s experience in this area, particularly in geothermal energy development. President Piñera expressed a strong interest in continuing to encourage the future development of commercially viable geothermal energy in Chile.”

New Zealand currently produces 15 percent of its power through geothermal energy, and 77 percent of the country’s energy is harnessed through renewable means. 

"The international geothermal industry is small, so the people involved know each other. Chile is seen as an important place for geothermal energy and this is reflected in the number of companies that are studying the possibility of investing here," Andrea Blair the geothermal business development manager at New Zealand-based consultancy GNS Science, told Renewable Energy World.

“There is a clear global demand for the skills of New Zealand power companies, engineers, universities and scientists,” Rhianon Berry, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s trade commissioner, added. “We see great opportunities to foster this strategic partnership in geothermal energy in Chile, where there is an increasing demand for energy supply due to the favorable domestic economic conditions and the expansion of high consumption sectors like mining.”

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