GDN General Manager highlights the role of the State and Science for Geothermal Industry

Friday, 09 de June

(Cega, June 9th 2017) The first geothermal plant in South America, located in Chile, Cerro Pabellón, was inaugurated in early April. The plant is injecting more than 4 GWh into the Norte Grande Interconnected System in its first two months of operations. During April, 2.2 GWh were generated, according to data from the National Electricity Coordinator. Behind this emblematic project for the country, is a key man: GDN General Manager, Guido Cappetti, with whom we talk to deepen into the adventure of this project.


Capetti is Italian and since 1976 works at ENEL, mainly opening geothermal plants around the world. He describes that he is reaching the end of his career, and so, opening this plant means finishing his work at EGP with a great result that fills him with pride.


He remembers that during the wells exploration phase, “when I saw the results of the temperature profile, considering the experience I have, I thought ‘here we have a system with a very high power’ and I was confident. My initial intuition was right and the results were beyond those initially evaluated”, says Capetti, for whom Cerro Pabellón represents an example and an engine for geothermal energy development in Chile”. Positive results are an incentive to move forward. I hope that Cerro Pabellón will open doors not only for another project of ours, but also for other companies and thus an industry can be created here, because Chile has enormous geothermal potential”


Cerro Pabellón construction challenges

Regarding the construction process, GDN manager commented that “it had quite problematic aspects from the logistics point of view. For example, organizing a camp for 700 people, the construction of a power line of 80 Km, the fluid haulage system, the drilling of wells, and so on”.


Cappetti also emphasized that the relationship with the communities was a complex aspect. “Finally we signed agreements with them, with the support of the Ministry of Energy. All actors involved worked  together in a dialogue table. We committed ourselves to supporting the creation of some SMEs  to involve the communities in activities related to the project and to provide services to the community, such as cleaning the camp, laundry, transport service, a kiosk, among other actions that are commitments of the Resolution of Environmental Qualification, and others that are our own initiatives to involve the community”.


Science in Business
The manager of GDN identifies CEGA as an actor of great relevance in the promotion and study of geothermal in the country, so both institutions generated a collaboration agreement in research in 2017.


“We use technology and we have scientific competences in the development of our projects, and our activity generates many important data. We always need support from science for greater understanding. We are operating in a reality that we do not know, that is under the ground, therefore the discussion on scientific subjects is important for us”.


Cappetti, who claims to have a personal interest in scientific research and has numerous publications throughout his career in the field, commented that a similar collaboration has also been carried out for many years in Italy – the cradle of global geothermy – with the National Research Council.


Referring to the projections of the CEGA-GDN collaboration, Cappetti emphasizes that it is an open agreement, a framework for conducting studies. In addition, according to the commitments to be fulfilled in the Resolution of Environmental Qualification (RCA) the company must make a permanent monitoring during the whole period of operation of the plant on the characteristics of the fluids, chemical aspects, pressure data, temperature of Reservoirs, etc. “Our commitment from the beginning was to carry out this work at CEGA labs. We are working in this country, our position is here, I cannot send all the materials overseas for analysis, that would be absurd. ”


What do we lack in Chile for the development of geothermal energy?

“Chile lacks the attention of the State. Geothermal energy has a higher cost than solar or wind energy, but geothermal energy has a different quality, it has a much higher value because it is base energy, ie it has a constant function during day and night, and can fully supply the production of a coal or gas thermoelectric plant”


Faced with a comparison of renewable energy values, Cappetti is emphatic in that it is not possible to compare geothermal kW with solar kW because they are of different quality. “When you buy wine, you see a wine of 5 thousand Chilean pesos and a wine of 20 thousand Chilean pesos and you know that the quality is different” For the manager of GDN this was the error of the Chilean government in the last tender, to put in competition only the cost of geothermal with solar, and not considering the quality. However, this mistake has also been made by other countries.


For Guido Cappetti, Chile needs to implement what other countries have done to develop geothermal. In an initial phase State support  is needed, a subsidy to facilitate the start of a geothermal project; that is the most important part, because geothermal energy cannot compete with other energies only on the basis of price.