Chilean company Valhalla Energía could be behind a project that will lead to clean, economical energy for all of South America.
The project is a hydropower (read: water power) plant in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions in the world.
Here’s how it will work:
The plant will use solar energy (generated by a nearby solar power plant) to suck seawater up a mountain and into natural concavities—essentially forming natural (albeit salty) lakes. At night, the water will be released back down the mountain, generating power as it falls.
The combination of daytime solar power and nighttime hydropower will result in clean energy generation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The desert’s unique terrain, abundant sunshine, and proximity to the coastline make it one of the few places in the world where this can work.
And the best part is that the design is environmentally sustainable. The existence of natural depressions atop high cliffs eliminates the need to construct dams. Further, the lack of animals living in the extreme climate of the Atacama Desert make it possible for solar power plants to be built without worrying that the panels will disrupt local wildlife.
Valhalla plans to complete the construction of its first hydropower plant by 2020, and the plant’s 300 megawatts of electricity will be primarily used to power commercial and industrial clients.
If the project is a success, Valhalla could begin constructing more solar power and hydropower plants across the Atacama Desert—plants that could completely transform the country’s energy landscape. Chile could begin powering itself instead of importing a lot of its energy from fossil fuels from neighboring Argentina.
And if enough power plants are constructed, Chile could theoretically begin exporting clean energy to all of South America.
It’s an exciting thought, and one that makes Global Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy appear within (very close) reach.
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