The Plataforma Solar del Desierto de Atacama is gearing up to become a centre of excellence

The Plataforma Solar del Desierto de Atacama is gearing up to become a centre of excellencearticle picture
Published: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 Chile is one of the fastest growing solar markets in the world; new solar power plants are being built one after another. The Atacama Desert in Northern Chile is widely considered the world’s best solar resource. According to the Center for Renewable Energy (CER) it receives about 3,000 kWh/m2 solar irradiance. A perfect place for CDEA (Centro Dessarrollo Energético Antofagasta) to develop the “Plataforma Solar del Desierto de Atacama” (PSDA).

As an initiative of the Universidad de Antofagasta, CDEA has started to design a database that will provide insights into the different solar energy techniques and the solar radiation measured at the platform. The research centre is inspired by the “Plataforma Solar de Almería” in Spain and provides a platform for universities, companies and institutions for research and studies on solar energy related subjects.1

CDEA is supported by the government and was granted an area of 80 hectares to build the research centre. The database serves the university of course, but also the mining industry as they have such a large demand for energy in the region. Of the energy produced by the fossil fuel power plants, about 90% is consumed by mining companies. There is the need to incorporate renewable energy into the energy matrix in the north of Chile.

In February Kipp & Zonen welcomed engineers Fernando Guerra Hidalgo and Mauricio Pereira Huerta to the head office in Delft. After a visit to the impressive Plataforma Solar de Almería, where they witnessed the results of 20 years of research into different technologies, they travelled to the Netherlands to learn all there is to know about solar radiation. At their request, the training focussed on the calibration procedure of the equipment and the requirements of the Baseline Surface Radiation Network (BSRN) as they aim to have the PSDA site join the network in the future. 

CDEA emgineers in training at Kipp & Zonen's head office in Delft“We already have experience in working with solar radiation instruments such as pyranometers” says Guerra “but we want to bring it to the highest level, the BSRN level. It was so nice to be here at Kipp & Zonen and learn first-hand what it takes to join the network. We got great insights that we would not have found behind a desk in Antofagasta, such as best practices and the calibration process.

We look forward to making our proposal and hopefully installing our first BSRN station. The aim is to start with one measurement point, but we might expand, possibly to the North. All the data will be public as we strive to become a centre of excellence to give advice on solar energy systems and techniques. Not only for utility scale, but also for a small fishing harbour for example, where a solar system can replace the expensive diesel generators. We thank Clive Lee, customer services specialist and Dmytro Podolskyy, business manager, for two very educational days!”

Fernando Guerra Hidalgo and Mauricio Pereira Huerta visiting the Plataforma Solar de Almería in Spain

For more information on their work please visit

1 Source: Diario Financiero, Chile, 13/08

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