By the Potencia correspondent
In the Latin American region, Chile offers one of the greatest renewable energy potential. Hydropower, geothermal and solar projects are attracting a great deal of foreign investment from Europe, Northern America and Asia. The richness of Chile’s natural resources is backed up by the stability of the country’s economy and its solid financial system which are working as a magnet to attract foreign capital.
In the growing renewable energy sector in Chile, bioenergy (both biomass and biogas) is beginning to play an ever more important role.
The Chilean Renewable Energy Association (ACERA) has said that in some Chilean areas biogas extraction plants are being located on landfill sites, and are contributing to the gas supply to cities such as Santiago and Valparaiso. ACERA also stresses that bioenergy is also an efficient tool to provide electricity to isolated rural areas.
One of the key bioenergy projects in Chile is being developed by local company KDM Energia. KDM has built the Loma Los Colorados biogas plant, which has a capacity of 11.8 MW. Its installed capacity is due to reach 18 MW by the end of June, increasing to 50 MW by 2045. This electricity output could power over 200 000 families.
However, the bioenergy market in Chile faces some obstacles that are slowing down its growth. Spanish company CGS Renovables, which is very active in the renewables sector, said, through its general manager in Chile, Juan Carlos Martínez, that forest and cellulose industries essentially have a monopoly in Chile. These industries control most of the combustible biomass sources in the country.
Martínez said that small businesses are encountering problems developing biomass projects. As a solution, he suggests creating an association between CGS Renovables and small agriculture growers in an attempt to break the forest industry’s monopoly.
Plans like this one could well work as the Chilean government is keen to back the bioenergy industry. The Chilean state wants 20 per cent of electricity generation based on renewable energy by 2020. Some media, like Chile Renovables, have reported that the government expects the renewable energy market to reach a capacity of 13 GW as a long-term objective.
Nowadays biomass and biogas generate 95.9 MW for Chile’s Interconnected Central System (SIC) and the Norte Grande Interconnected System (SING). In addition, biomass and biogas add 279 MW by powering cogeneration plants.
There are several innovative projects that are really encouraging the future use of biomass in Chile. In the northern Antofagasta region the company E-CL, the main electricity producer in the area, is promoting the growing of crops suitable for biomass production, such as cacti and some deciduous trees.
These crops can be used in multi-combustible stations to produce electricity. Projects like these, in which biomass and coal are co-fired, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is one of the key objectives of the current Chilean energy policy.
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