Green Power Comes to La Silla
Ceremony marks the inauguration of solar farm that will supply clean energy to ESO’s observatory
23 September 2016
ESO and Enel Green Power are proud to announce the entry into service of the La Silla solar photovoltaic plant in northern Chile. To mark the event, an inauguration ceremony was held at the La Silla Gymnasium, overlooking the new La Silla plant.
The ceremony was opened by ESO’s Representative in Chile, Fernando Comerón, followed by Enel’s Head of Renewable Energies Latin America, Salvatore Bernabei. His excellency Máximo Pacheco Matte, the Chilean Minister of Energy, gave the closing address.
ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, underlined the importance of this facility to ESO: “This new plant will contribute significantly to ESO’s determined efforts to maximise the sustainable use of resources at its facilities. It seems particularly fitting that an astronomical observatory should take its power directly from the light of the Sun, and I am delighted to thank all involved for bringing this project to completion.”
Named after ESO’s La Silla Observatory, this new photovoltaic (PV) solar plant will supply the astronomical observatory with clean energy through a power purchase agreement. At La Silla, ESO operates two of the most productive 4-metre class telescopes in the world and some of the attendees visited the observatory after the ceremony, accompanied by Fernando Comerón, ESO Representative in Chile, Andreas Kaufer, Director of La Silla-Paranal Observatory and ESO staff astronomers.
The total capacity of the new facility amounts to 1.7 MW. Its yearly output will be approximately 4.75 GWh, which will be delivered to Chile’s Central Region Interconnected System (SIC). The annual output from the solar plant is equivalent to the electricity needs of approximately 2000 households and more than 50% of the observatory’s annual power consumption. The clean energy generated by the plant avoids the emission of over 2000 equivalent tonnes of CO2.
Since the agreement was signed in 2014, engineers and workers have braved the challenging conditions of the Chilean Atacama desert to install this plant. It combines conventional PV modules with bifacial modules, which capture solar energy from both sides of the photovoltaic panel, and smart modules, which employ a microchip to allow each panel to deliver electricity regardless of any malfunctions affecting other panels. This approach increases the total power generation by 5-10% compared to a traditional plant of similar size. Early results from testing confirm this estimate.
The installation of the solar farm at La Silla is part of the Green ESO programme, a series of ambitious initiatives that ESO is taking to reduce the environmental impacts of its operations. As ESO looks to the future, it seeks further sustainable energy sources to be compatible across all its sites, including Cerro Armazones — close to Cerro Paranal and the site of the future European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The Chilean government aims to increase the share of energy produced by non-conventional renewable energy sources in Chile to 25% in 2020, with a possible target of 30% by 2030.
- Enel Green Power begins construction of innovative PV plant at La Silla Observatory in Chile (EGP press release)
- Green ESO page
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