Marianna, the “Queen” of Cerro Pabellón: My Life on Mars

Published on Wednesday, 19 April 2017

“I’ll never forget my first day at the worksite. It was like being on Mars, surrounded by nothing and with no contact with the outside world. It was beautiful and surreal at the same time.”

– Marianna Zeppieri

A Home in the Desert

In the course of her life and career, Marianna has lived in the mountains more than once. She had explored many Italian peaks and discovered the heights of Nepal, but she had never gone as far as 4500 metres of altitude, where the body reacts in unpredictable ways.

“We went up without making intermediate stops, so without allowing the organism to get used to certain heights. The impact was strong and I remember that the first night, it was impossible to sleep, so other colleagues and I decided to go back to lower altitudes to recover our strength”. Over time, their bodies adapted and Cerro Pabellón became a welcoming home for everyone that took part in the project.

The only stable female presence at the worksite, Marianna faced a working context that is still predominantly male. “The groups involved always worked in great harmony and, despite finding ourselves confined to 4500 metres altitude without contact with the outside world, everything went great. Besides me, our colleague Valentina Rapisarda was also present, coming from Italy on various occasions to give us support, but we never felt out of place. Our colleagues, both Italian and Chilean, were very open and flexible”.

“At Cerro Pabellón, there are no telephones and the Internet connection isn’t reliable. We found ourselves inspecting the plant alongside off-roads without knowing what was happening in the rest of the world.”

– Marianna Zeppieri

31 March 2017: A Day I’ll Never Forget

Following almost two years of work, on 31 March, the plant finally produced its first kWh of energy: “In my previous work experience, I had never witnessed a plant come into operation personally. At Cerro Pabellón it was different: we were all waiting, tired but satisfied after all the work behind us. Finally, I heard the commissioning leader Simone Villani shout with excitement and I saw the plant start to produce energy. It was like seeing something come to life”.

It might seem strange, but in that moment, the immense joy was mixed with a little bit of melancholy: “We were all so happy to have completed this huge job, but we also realised that this meant a chapter of our lives was coming to an end. It was an emotional moment that I’ll never forget”.

“Now that it is in operation, the Cerro Pabellón plant will be able to produce about 340 GWh a year, enough to meet the energy needs of more than 165,000 Chilean households.”

For Marianna, too, it’s time to turn the page and start a new adventure: “In Chile I had an unforgettable experience, one of those that changes your life. Now I’m looking to the next project, hoping to discover another foreign country, but Cerro Pabellón will always have a special place in my heart”.