Patagonia inmates will produce vegetables all year round with geothermal greenhouse

Wednesday, 12 de October

CEGA will lead a Project to install a geothermal heating system in a greenhouse   at the Work-Study Center “Valle Verde” (CET), a gendarmerie institution that coachs and provides job opportunities for liberty deprived persons. The initiative  is financed by the Ministry of Energy (Chile), and will allow the production of vegetables in winter, which until now was only possible with polluting energies.

The “Geothermal Greenhouse for social reintegration in Aysen Project”, was one of the winning proposals of the Energy Access Fund 2016 (FAE), competition organized by the Ministry of Energy (Chile) which co-finances proposals that promote the use of renewable energy in rural, isolated or vulnerable areas.

The initiative presented by CEGA`s researchers: Mauricio Muñoz, Diego Aravena, Karin García y Rodrigo Maripangui, will allow to heat a greenhouse with geothermal energy  at a Gendarmerie institution in Patagonia that receives special prisioners in order to prepare them  for labour reinsertion, simulating working conditions at the free medium.

In regards of the impact of this project, Juan Antonio Bijit, Regional Ministerial Secretary for Aysen , says: “Geothermal energy is a renewable resource and its development is one of the principal points of the Chilean energy agenda promoted by President Michelle Bachelet, in June 2014. I think that is important to advance in stages in this type of energy, and in that sense this Project is relevant “

This energy option will allow to obtain vegetable crops throughout the year in a región with hard weather conditions. Untill now, this has only been possible with greenhouses heated with wood. Also, this initiative will create the oportunity to train 30 inmates to handle equipments and development of a sustainable business model that will allow to keep the initiative running in the future.

Furthermore, Mauricio Muñoz, CEGA`s researcher and Project coordinator, says: “It will be demonstrated that is feasible to use this technology in the region, allowing that more people have access to the benefits of geothermal: clean and low cost energy, without CO2 emissions that can be used in almost all processes requiring heat or cold. Geothermal energy can be adapted to different production processes, and we hope to demonstrate  this energy source use is feasible in this área”

Diego Morata, CEGA`s Director, highlights that innovation is one of the distinguishing features of this Project: “When one speaks about greenhouses,  it is believed that the only way to keep the heat inside, is almost exclusively by solar radiation. Here we will use a resource that comes from inside the earth, and it breaks the paradigms of how to heat a greenhouse. The social component is the other innovative feature: we are proposing an initiative that is good for the community and for the environment. It is an ecological and recreational project: work with the land and sow. These two factors made this proposal a winner”.

The geothermal greenhouse is part of a series of initiatives that CEGA has been developing since 2014, together with the Regional Mining Ministerial Secretary for Aysen. The collaboration started with the Project “Estimation and Enhancement of the geothermal potential of Aysen”, proposal funded by the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness (FIC Regional), which has allowed the evaluation of geothermal energy resource of the region and also identify different applications that  can be implemented to benefit the community.

In addition, there is another interesting project: “Chile: Direct use of geothermal energy for the promotion of sustainable production model in rural areas”, initiative funded by the United Nations Environment Programme, that consists in the design and implementation of a  firewood dryer and a greenhouse, both systems will operate based on geothermal energy. This proposal is already underway and will be implemented by researchers from the Energy Centre (CER) and the Andean Geothermal Centre of Excellence (CEGA), both institutions housed in the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile