By the Potencia correspondent

Chile’s power generation sector is primarily based on hydroelectric dams and thermal power plants. And although this Latin American country also boasts other generation sources, like wind, solar and geothermal power stations, its electricity sector looks set to remain highly dependent on hydropower and coal. Several such projects are set to take centre stage this year.

The Punta Alcalde thermoelectric project and Alto Maipo hydropower project are two of the major projects moving forward in the Chilean energy market this year.

The Punta Alcalde power station is due to be constructed in the province of Huasco, located in the region of Atacama, and represents an important thermal power plant project, especially for the neighbouring mines.

However, this coal-fired power project, which Spain’s Endesa is in charge of, has not been without controversy.

Huasco’s local council has concerns that the emissions from Punta Alcalde will be harmful to the environment.

The Regional Commission for Environment of Atacama (Corema) had initially brought the works to a halt, but the Chilean government over-ruled that decision in December and approved the Punta Alcalde project.

The Council of Ministers made its decision unanimously, but on 2 January this year the local council appealed the decision, reports Diario Financiero.

The Punta Alcalde project is expected to cost $1.4bn to build and will comprise two coal-fired units, each with a capacity of 340 MW.

Sebastian Fernandez, Endesa’s regional manager for Energy Planning confirmed for Diario Financiero, that his company expects construction of the Punta Alcalde project to start at the end of this year, and take up to 48 months.

 Joaquin Galindo, Endesa Chile’s general manager, told La Tercera that once operational Punta Alcalde will add “almost 12 per cent” of Chile’s total electricity production to the Central Interconnected System.

Commenting on the opposition to the plant, Galindo confirmed that Punta Alcalde is following the law and respects all the obligations imposed by the government of Chile.

He said that the people who were against the project “have nothing to be afraid of” because the Punta Alcalde incorporates state-of-the-art technology and “follows all the legal rules”.

The coal-fired power plant has a number of design features to minimize its emissions, including a filter system to capture particulates and a FDG system to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions. Punta Alcalde will also conduct stringent environmental monitoring.

Thus, Punta Alcalde is described as Chile’s best conventional power plant in terms of the environment performance.

Endesa also has other important goals for 2013 in Chile.

One of these is HydroAsen hydro project, which is awaiting approval by the country’s government.

A second one is Curibamba hydropower station, which will be located between the Comas River and Uchubamba River and is expected to reach a capacity of 188 MW.

Another important project for Endesa this year is Talara, a 188 MW dual fuel plant that will fire both diesel and gas.

One of Chile’s most important power projects underway is the 531 MW Alto Maipo hydroelectric power facility.

Local engineering company AES Gener SA and ACS of Spain are in charge of the works, with ACS delegating the task in its German subsidiary Hochtief.

The investment for Alto Maipo is said to be $ 280m and is scheduled for completion in 2017.

Alto Maipo project comprises two construction sites located in Cajon del Maipo, 30 km southeast from the country’s capital, Santiago, Spanish news agency Efe reports.

According to La Tercera another important hydropower projects underway in Chile is Neltume (490 MW), which is being constructed by Endesa.

Clearly Endesa, like a number of other foreign companies, are bullish about the Chilean electric power market. Its faith perfectly illustrated by the significant number of projects is has undertaken.

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