New wind farm in Chile

President Sebastián Piñera inaugurated the Wind Power Punta Colorada, in La Higuera, in the Coquimbo region. Built by the mining company Barrick Gold, the wind farm cover 242 hectares and is the biggest ever to be constructed by a mining company, not to mention one of the biggest in South America .

The wind energy project was to have had a total investment of US$70 million, but actually it came closer to US$50 million, to produce the energy that will be incorporated in the Sistema Interconectado Central (SIC), or the Central Electrical Grid System. The wind farm will produce enough energy for 20,000 homes, avoiding 30,067 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. It has a total of 10 wind turbines with a capacity to generate a total of 20 megawatts.

Acorrding to the Barrick Gold company website, “The idea of the company is on one hand, improve business and diversify its energy component and on the other hand, to contribute to development and social progress, regarding the reduction of greenhouse gases.”

The Parque Eólico de Punta Colorada is only one of the five company initiatives for La Higuera, which includes the electrical substation that launched in January 2010; the electrical energy plant of 17 megawatts that has also been incorporated into the SIC since last December 2010; the new access path to Pascua-Lama, an open pit mining project for gold, and other minerals, which hopefully will be made available for the second semester of 2011; the transmission line which carries the energy to the project, which will take 18 months to construct. The total investment cost of these initiatives will reach around US$251 million.

It is hoped that this wind power project will join the mechanism for Clean Development set by the Kyoto Protocol.

Another Chilean wind farm, planned to be the largest in South America, is also in the works for the Biobío Region in the port city of Lebu. The US$1.2 billion plant, to be built by Chilean company Inversiones Bosquemar Limitada, will contain 273 wind turbines and produce up to 108 megawatts once complete.

Some have protested against wind power, giving reasons such as the fact that wind varies so energy output is unreliable; the windmills need to be at a constant speed of around 25 kilometers per hour. Wind turbines also cause noise pollution, albeit they are free from greenhouse gas emissions, and some believe the tall turbines are unsightly on the landscape. Despite all this, Barrick believe this will reduce their greenhouse gas output, as part of responsible mining efforts, and produce clean and renewable energy.