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Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert possesses abundant natural resources. Its soils hold the world’s largest copper and non-metallic minerals reserves, sustaining an active mining industry that has been the country’s main productive and economic sector for over a century. Another abundant natural resource in this vast territory comes from its skies, as it has the highest levels of solar irradiance in the world.

The desert also presents challenges. The lack of water and the high cost of reliable and sustainable energy supply are a real threat to the mining sector’s competitiveness.

Chile understands that this context represents an opportunity for development. The mining industry’s urgent need can be a powerful ally to search innovative energy solutions. The development of a solar power industry is on the way. This process develops applications specific to the desert’s unique environmental conditions through R&D&I to take advantage of the full potential of photovoltaic and thermal solar power.

 

Characteristics of the Atacama Desert

 

105.000

km2
Area

2.500(GHI)/3500(DNI)

kWh/m2 year
Average irradiance

4.000

HOURS
Average annual hours of sunlight

2

mm
Average annual rainfall
in some desert areas

T<30º

CELSIUS
Average temperatura in summer

65%

UV-B IRRADIATION 
Above European average

 

Potential Market

 

Chilean Minning Industry

 

5,7

MILLION TONS
annual copper production, the world’s largest producer of this mineral

34,1

TWH
projected annual electricity consumption by the Chilean copper mining industry by 2025.

 

Domestic Market

 

98%

OF THE NATIONAL POPULATION
could benefit from the electricity generated by the Atacama Desert sun after the SIC and SING are interconnected in 2018.

 

Global Market

 

98%

GW

of installed photovoltaic generation capacity could supply 30% of South America’s electricity consumption using just 6,000 km2 of the Atacama Desert.

200

Million
the estimated population that could be supplied with power generated in the desert regions around the world.

 

Fuente: SERC, CDEA, Solar Committe, InvestChile, Fundación Chile, DGAC, IEA PVPS Task 8.