Geothermal Energy in Chile

Chile is one of the regions with the highest volcanic activity on the planet, given its privileged position in the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, the country has about 20% of continental active volcanoes.

This strategic situation also implies a high potential in Chile for the generation of geothermal energy. The figures on geothermal potential handled today in Chile range from 3,350 MW (Enap) to 16,000 MW (Lahsen, 1988), which could represent 91% of the current installed capacity of the country’s energy matrix.

However, geothermal energy is the least known non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE), the most ignored and the one with the greatest potential within all the possible NCRE to develop in the country.

Geological studies in the north and south of the country have allowed a preliminary evaluation of the geothermal potential of Chile in approximately 16,000 MW for at least 50 years of geothermal fluids with temperatures above 150 ºC, located less than 3000 meters underground.

Despite this, geothermal energy in Chile has been exploited almost exclusively for recreational purposes, such as thermal baths (Lahsen, 1986, 1988; Lahsen et al. 2010). Only in the  recent years we have had  some institutional, business and private initiatives emerged to exploit the dozens of uses that may be  provided by geothermal energy.

In terms of geothermal research, the Los Andes Geothermal Center of Excellence is the only institution entirely dedicated to the study of geothermal systems in the Andean region. Some of the CEGA projects that stand out in advancing knowledge of geothermal energy for its development on a small and large scale are the Low Enthalpy Project that we developed with the support of the Ministry of Energy, which seeks to evaluate the geothermal potential in Santiago and Talca ; and the creation of a map of favorability linking with news, which determines the most auspicious areas to exploit the geothermal resource within the country. Along with this, the CEGA develops a wide range of research in basic science around our geothermal systems.