Chile, a country in South America, is emerging as a trailblazer in the global pursuit of sustainable energy solutions. With its ambitious green energy program launched in 2019. Chile envisions a future where fossil fuels will be completely replaced by renewables by the year 2040. One of the emblematic structures of this energy revolution is the solar thermal tower Cerro Dominador. Standing tall in the Atacama Desert – the only one of its kind in Latin America.

Cerro Dominador: A Solar Marvel

The Atacama Desert Oasis

The Atacama Desert, known for its arid landscapes and extreme dryness, houses the majestic Cerro Dominador. This solar thermal tower, adorned with 10,600 mirrors and resembling a sunflower at its base, rises to a staggering height of 240 meters. The tower often likened to Sauron’s ominous structure from The Lord of the Rings. Utilizes the abundant solar radiation of the Atacama Desert to generate electricity.

The Solar Thermal Tower Mechanism

Solar salts, extracted from the driest desert on the planet. It circulate through intricate ducts, resembling arteries, connecting to the tower’s pinnacle. At this zenith, mirrors reflect sunlight, heating the salts to a scorching 565ºC. The superheated salts then travel down the same pipes, reaching water containers that generate steam. This steam, in turn, propels a turbine, ultimately producing electricity. With an installed capacity of 110 megawatts. The Cerro Dominador stands as a symbol of Chile’s commitment to harnessing clean energy.

Chile’s Renewable Energy Landscape

Surpassing Ambitious Targets

“A decade ago, no one would have imagined that more than a third of Chile’s energy would come from the sun and wind before 2030,” remarks Marcelo Mena, former Environment Minister of Chile. Surpassing ambitious expectations, 35.4% of the country’s energy is now derived from solar and wind sources. Additionally, 37.2% is sourced from water, covering the majority of the National Electric System’s demand. Fossil fuels, once dominant, now represent only 26.9% of Chile’s energy mix.

Global Recognition for Renewable Consolidation

Marta Alonso, Director for South America at Global Energy Services (GES), commends Chile’s strides in renewable energy consolidation. She notes, “Very few countries in the world have been able to truly consolidate a renewable energy industry like Chile.” The nation’s commitment to sustainability positions it as a role model for the global community.

Overcoming the Storage Dilemma

The Storage Predicament

While the advancements in renewable energy are remarkable, the challenge of effective storage looms large. Marta Alonso acknowledges that the incomplete development of storage technology presents a dilemma in the decarbonization journey.

Solar Salts: Chile’s Unique Approach

Chile has, however, taken an innovative approach to address the storage hurdle. Both the Cerro Dominador and the groundbreaking Alba Project rely on solar salts extracted from the Atacama Desert. Comprising potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate, these salts, when melted and kept in a liquid state, offer a remarkable ability to store energy. The Cerro Dominador tower boasts a storage period of 17 hours, showcasing the potential of this groundbreaking technology.

The Alba Project: Transforming Coal into Clean Energy

A pioneering venture, the Alba Project aims to convert the Angamos coal-fired thermoelectric plant into a colossal storage system for renewable energy. This unique project plans to harness photovoltaic and wind energy to heat solar salts, effectively transforming the former coal plant into a massive battery.

Diego Pardow, Chilean Minister of Energy, emphasizes the uniqueness of the Alba Project, stating, “It is the only project that exists of this magnitude outside of a university.” As Chile progressively eliminates coal plants, the vision is to replace them with solar thermal plants or convert them into innovative energy storage facilities like the Alba Project.

Rising Above Challenges: Chile’s Energy Evolution

A Decade of Transformation

Reflecting on Chile’s energy landscape a decade ago, Marcelo Mena, former Environment Minister, notes the audacity of envisioning more than a third of the country’s energy deriving from the sun and wind before 2030. The ambitious goal, once perceived as lofty, has not only been achieved but surpassed. Chile, against all odds, now stands at the forefront of countries consolidating a robust renewable energy industry.

A Renewable Revolution

The evolution is evident in the numbers: 35.4% of Chile’s energy now comes from the wind and the sun, with an additional 37.2% sourced from water. Fossil fuels, which once dominated the energy spectrum, now constitute a mere 26.9%. Marta Alonso of Global Energy Services commends Chile’s commitment, highlighting the rarity of such successful renewable consolidation on a global scale.


Chile’s journey towards a renewable future is marked by remarkable achievements and innovative solutions. The solar thermal tower Cerro Dominador, standing proudly in the Atacama Desert, symbolizes the nation’s commitment to combat climate change through sustainable energy practices. As Chile surpasses its own ambitious targets, it sets an inspiring example for the world. With groundbreaking projects like the Alba Project, the nation navigates the storage dilemma, paving the way for a cleaner, greener future. In the race for renewables, Chile is undoubtedly taking the lead, showcasing the power of human ingenuity in harmony with nature.