Tuesday, October 17, 2017 | Updated at 4:09 PM ET


Chile Is Going Big on Solar Power

First Posted: Jan 18, 2016 06:00 AM EST
One dead in anti-Uber protests at Chile airport
Solar Power Industry In Spain

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First, free education, and now solar energy. Chile is fast becoming a people- and environment-friendly nation.

Solar power isn't new, but Chile has proven that Latin America can still join the conservation revolution. This is a lofty triumph for the country that also became king in another solar initiative -- solar photovoltaics (PV) use.

For solar energy, the South American nation is investing big time on Atacama 1, a 200-meter-tall solar tower under construction and will soon become a source of renewable energy.

With over 10,600 mirrors being built for it, Atacama 1 is expected to generate a whopping 110 megawatts 24/7.

Hopes are high for the solar energy project.

According to the Latin America Post, Atacama 1 is expected to be the largest solar plant running on a single tower in the world. In addition, its turbines will be powered by another natural resource -- locally mined salt.

"The sun and the salt are from Chile. This is one of our selling points - that we provide a stable supply using local resources. This plant is not dependent on imports so there is more security against global price fluctuations and international crises," Business Development Manager Roberto Herrera of Spanish company Abengoa, owner of Atacama 1, stated via the Guardian.

"The marginal costs in Chile are the lowest of any of our power plants ... When it is built, we'll only need 50 maintenance staff ... The cost is already at the same level as gas - $120 per megawatt hour - and the idea is for it to fall as the technology improves," he added.

According to the Washington Post, companies investing in solar and wind installations are skyrocketing this year. United States and China are two countries with numerous installations already.

In fact, countries in developing regions such as Africa and Latin America aren't exempt from the green trend since they are investing in solar energy as well.

Despite the industry's chief competitors' (coal and natural gas) low prices, the aforementioned countries have taken faith in green energy.

While Spanish company Abengoa plays a big role in Chile's solar power shift, Google's upcoming plans will also contribute greatly to the country's green future. The giant global tech company is reportedly planning on building its first Latin American data center in Chile, with its Quilicura headquarters expected to be fully-powered with solar energy come 2017.

The future of solar energy in Latin America is bright. The region has become solar power's fastest growing market in the world. In 2014, Latin America's solar power skyrocketed to 370 percent.

Chile isn't the only country starting to shift to a solar future in Latin America.

Uruguay's big success came in late 2015 when it announced that 94.5 percent of its energy has come via renewable sources. Costa Rica has also done the same with solar, and has even delivered better results. Brazil and Paraguay's energy comes mostly from hydroelectric power. Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Panama are also looking to invest in solar energy.

These aforementioned countries have slowly shifted to other renewable energy sources like wind and biomass.

Despite the uncertainty of Atacama 1's success, it's still clear that renewable energy in Latin America has a huge potential, especially solar power. It has less environmental and social issues as compared to other massive energy production options.

With solar power's returns against fossil fuels, pollution, climate change and the likes, investing in the resource in the Latam region sounds like the best option.

Besides, the Earth can use all the help it can get.

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