Most productive geothermal well in South America found in Chile

GeoGlobal Energy Chile hopes to have operations fully functional at the new renewable energy site in the Araucania region as early as 2014.

The Tolhuaca volcano in southern Chile is home to the geothermal well. Photo: Pato Novoa
The Tolhuaca volcano in southern Chile is home to the geothermal well. Photo: Pato Novoa

Energy company GeoGlobal Energy Chile (GGE Chile) has announced the results of their three years of geothermal energy exploration testing near the Tolhuaca volcano in the Araucania region of Chile – and the findings are worth celebrating.

Tests show that the site is the most productive geothermal well to date in South America.

GGE Chile has been actively exploring the Tolhuaca area for over three years. The company will now design, obtain permits, and construct power plants and transmission lines for the site.

The company’s goal, according to its press release, is to have power operations up and running as early as 2014. There are currently no operating geothermal power plants in South America.

Geothermal energy is generated by tapping into the heat created and stored inside the Earth. Unlike wind or solar energy sources, geothermal wells can generate power 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and often have a smaller physical impact on the surrounding environment.

“Geothermal energy is a clean, baseload domestic fuel source that can play a critical role in helping meet the country’s [Chile’s] power needs,” said Rüdiger Trenkle, GGE Chile general manager.

Chile enjoys one of the largest undeveloped geothermal areas in the world, with megawatt potential estimated by Universidad de Chile as high as 16,000 MW. The Andean nation’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire – a site of tectonic plate collision – makes the country an ideal location to generate this type of renewable energy.

According to Gregory Raasch, executive vice president and co-founder of GGE, the new Tolhuaca site signals a promising future for Chile’s geothermal endeavors.

“The discovery of a proven commercial field is a game changer for geothermal in Chile,” he said. “This project demonstrates that geothermal energy can be a significant part of the Chilean electrical system and provide clean, reliable electrical power.”