CEGA held a latin american meeting for geothermal research centers

Thursday, 01 de September

The activity took place between the 16 and 18 of August. Representatives from Mexico, Argentina and Chile gathered to share experiences and define actions that aim to strengthen geothermal development in the region.
The central goal of the meeting was to set focus on South America as the only part of the world that has no operational power plants that produce electricity with geothermal energy. The activity brought together researchers of the Mexican Center for Innovation in Geothermal Energy (CeMIEGeo), Institute for Research in Non Conventional Energy (Inenco) and the Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA).

During three days , the centers exhibited the history, barriers and challenges that geothermal energy faces in their countries, as well as laying the groundwork for future cooperation agreements among centers: “our intention is to combine efforts, because any progress that is made in this matter not only impacts the country, it also impacts to the rest of Latin America”, says José Manuel Romo, member of the CeMIEGeo.

For José Viramonte, a member of INENCO and a researcher of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council – Argentina (CONICET), the initiative is relevant because it gathers countries with common problems, that have geographical, human and technical capacity to advance the development of geothermal energy: “We have to make effective South-South cooperation. We must begin to let go of the paternity of the North, mainly because our context is very different from other parts of the world, it has nothing to do with New Zealand, Iceland, Italy and Turkey. In addition we have another huge advantage: we speak Spanish. This facilitates a better understanding, exchange, reduce costs and fosters autonomy”.

Latin American Overview

During the sessions, the current scenario of geothermal energy in each country was discussed. Of three centers participating at the meeting, only Mexico has power plants, with an installed capacity of 1036 MW coming from Cerro Prieto (Baja California), Azufres (Michoacán), Las Tres Vígenes (Puebla), Las Tres Vírgenes (Baja California South) and Domo de San Pedro (Nayarit).

On the current state of geothermal energy in Mexico, Jose Manuel Romo says: “Our country has a tradition of more than 40 years in geothermal energy. The state investment during the early years was crucial, as well as the input from the Federal Electricity Commission, which now is a public Company, that is part of the actors that are powering the development of geothermal energy. Anyway, despite all the information, it is very difficult to attract private investment, because it has a lot of baseline risk. In other words, when the resource has already been found, interest raises “.

In relation to geothermal energy in Chile and Argentina, diagnosis are in some ways similar: despite sharing a territory of great potential and having agendas aimed to increase the presence of renewable energies by 2020, both countries still dont have geothermal power plants.

Even though Argentina has been exploring since the 70`s, and their scientific advances have helped to identify high enthalpy reservoirs with explotation potential (Copahue, Domuyo, Valle del Cura, Tuzgle-Tocomar), up to date none of these systems is being exploited. South American countries share this crital scenario. About this reality, Viramonte says: “We have common problems: there is a lack of legislation, there is a gap that must be overcome. In addition, we have an unlimited resource , which does not pollute, the only one that can generate the base power with regard to other type of energies.”

However, the regional community expects a twist in this scenario by 2017, once Cerro Pabellón power plant starts operations in Chile, with a total installed capacity of 48 MW, becoming the first plant of South America. CEGA believes that Cerro Pabellón will bring new opportunities and challenges for geothermal energy: “The regional geothermal community is attentive to what will occur here, because what will happen here will be determinant to other countries enthusiasm about geothermal development. This plant will be our laboratory for practical classes, in which we want to contribute from research to solve various problems that may emerge. The idea is to export outcomes and lessons to the rest of Latin America “, concludes Diego Morata, CEGA`s Director.