Latest Online: 2022
Cerro Dominador 110 MW
SolarPACES-NREL database: All plant details on the 110 MW Cerro Dominador tower CSP project
The 110 MW Cerro Dominador tower CSP project with 17.5 hours of thermal energy storage first synchronized to the grid in 2021 and was online in 2022.
The initial developer was Abengoa, a multinational company with many green infrastructure, water, and energy projects. During a period of financial stress globally for the firm, it was bought by EIG Global Energy Partners, and Acciona took over the construction. Abengoa remained a technological partner and builder.
Grupo Cerro now owns the project. A consortium of funders, including Natixis, Deutsche Bank, Société Générale, ABN AMRO, Banco Santander, Commerzbank, and BTG Pactual, financed the resumption of the plant. The site is in the commune of María Elena in the Antofagasta Region of Chile, about 24 kilometers west-northwest of Sierra Gorda. The associated 100 MW PV project on the site began operation in 2018.
CSP in Development
SolarReserve developed three large tower CSP projects in Chile between 2015 and 2018, all central tower CSP, all fully permitted (contemporaneous interview with then SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith ). Due to technical problems at Crescent Dunes storage tanks closing its Nevada project, SolarReserve was unable to move ahead with the projects in Chile. The three “shovel ready” permitted projects are the 450 MW Tamuragal, the 600 MW Likana, and the 390 MW Copiapó . All three are tower CSP and all with thermal energy storage in molten salts.
Grupo Cerro bought the latter two. Despite auction bids offered at record-low prices in Chile, first by SolarReserve, and subsequently by Grupo Cerro, they have yet to advance to commercial production as of 2023. Fraunhofer has published (pdf) data on the value and competitiveness of grid services that hybrid CSP-PV projects could offer in Chile.
Chile is the world’s largest producer of sodium and potassium nitrates, the molten salts used in tower CSP. A study assessing the benefits to Chilean manufacturing estimated that Chilean industries could supply between 18% and 56% of the parts needed for CSP overall and could supply most of the thermal energy storage between building the tanks and providing the molten salts.
Chile has the world’s best solar resource for CSP but has yet to fully leverage this global advantage. Participants in the study suggested that once the long-troubled Atacama 1 (Cerro Dominador) CSP project resolved its financial and worker problems that resulted in a two-year hiatus, Chilean authorities might be more amenable to additional projects. Cerro Dominador went online in 2022.
Chile’s DNI is 3,800 kWh/m2 in the Atacama desert, the world’s highest solar resource for CSP projects. The region is not subject to sandstorms. Variable renewables, PV and wind, increasingly supply the grid, and to complement these renewables, flexible dispatchable generation, such as is provided by CSP with thermal energy storage, is needed.