Cerro Dominador successfully completed the molten salt pumping tests towards the receiver, which receives radiation from the heliostats that surround it. This is another relevant milestone because it is the prelude to the synchronization of the first solar thermal plant in Latin America, located in the municipality of María Elena.
The salts were provided by SQM from its Antofagasta and Tarapacá sites. Cerro Dominador is an investment of US$ 1.4 million, divided into two plants that together will generate 210 MW to the electricity system. The first is photovoltaic (100 MW) and considers 392 thousand panels in 300 hectares that are already in operation since 2017, injecting energy while there is sunlight. The second and more complex is the solar thermal (110 MW), which involves the 243 meter tower (and receiver) and the 10,600 heliostats. Each of these structures is a mirror located about five meters high, with a surface of 140 meters that point the light to the receiver installed at the top of the tower. As a whole, the diameter of the solar field is three kilometers.
The molten salt storage system is what makes it possible for the plant to generate energy 24/7, by generating steam, thanks to the salts heated by the receiver that directly receives solar radiation. The company reported that synchronization to the system will take place over the next few weeks, which is the way in which Cerro Dominador will enter the system. The synchronization begins phase 1, after which it will move to Phase 2, which is already the operation, where they will be making a detailed adjustment of the different systems and carrying out the final acceptance tests of the plant.
“During this period we expect to operate at an average of 50% of nominal power. At the end of phase 2 we will reach 80% of nominal operation. Then there will be Phase 3, which will be necessary for the complete coupling of the plant to the mode of operation of the national electricity system. That is, at this point it adapts to the requirements of the National Electricity Coordinator, operating at an average of 80% of maximum power. Finally, Phase 4, or final phase of commercial operation, is when the plant will operate at its maximum capacity”, the company explained.