Where the Sun Illuminates the Stars

Thursday, 1 December 2016

“In the Atacama Desert, Enel Green Power has joined together day and night. We use the sun to “illuminate” the stars”

Where the sky comes down to Earth

At the edge of this incredibly arid area, on the slopes of the Cerro La Silla at an altitude of 2400 metres, scientists of the observatory of the same name relentlessly explore one of the darkest skies of the Earth.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) operates some of the largest telescopes in the world, which allow them to study objects at the edges of the universe and to reveal the existence of planets around other stars.

“The La Silla astronomical observatory, operational since 1976, is a historic outpost of ESO research, equipped with the best technologies available for exploring the sky and celestial bodies.”

Our energy has arrived even here, where we installed an innovative photovoltaic plant that provides “green” electricity to the astronomical observatory and the community that brings it to life.

Smart Innovation under the Milky Way

What is new at the La Silla solar farm is the use of latest-generation panels that include bifacial and smart modules. Bifacial modules capture solar energy from both sides of the panel, while smart modules contain microchips that make each individual panel independent.

Unlike conventional systems, where the malfunction of one panel could affect the production of others, smart modules allow the panels to provide power to the network regardless of any potential anomalies to the single panels.

“The La Silla plant is an example of technological excellence that combines innovation and sustainability, put in service of scientific progress as well as the electric industry.”

– Salvatore Bernabei, head of Enel Green Power for Latin America.

Experimenting with the future

Enel invested about 3.4 million US dollars in order to build the plant, which came into operation in 2016.

La Silla is the first industrial-sized solar farm in the world that brings together the use of bifacial and smart modules and conventional ones to use the same site to test the performance of the innovative technologies against that of the traditional panels.

“The plant can generate about 4.75 GWh a year, meeting the energy needs of almost 2,000 Chilean households and over 50% of the annual consumption of the observatory.”

We foresee that the use of the innovative panels will be able to increase the power of generation between 5 and 10% compared to a traditional solar plant of the same size.