Operator: Orzunil de Electricidad Ltd
Configuration: 24 MW ORC
T/G supplier: Ormat
Quick facts: Zunil was the first geothermal power plant in Guatemala.
Central America is sitting on a green energy bank in the form of its active volcanoes. The potential for tapping into geothermal power in Guatemala, for example, is enormous, and the government there is offering tax breaks and other incentives for private investors
Central America sits above shifting tectonic plates in the Pacific basin, and this often results in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But it also provides a potential source of unlimited green energy in the form of geothermal power.Guatemala's Pacaya volcano broods quietly today but it's still active, erupting only months ago and providing a spectacular demonstration of the power that Guatemala's government hopes can be tapped for practical use.
[Romeo Rodriguez, Guatemalan Minister of Energy & Mines]:
"Guatemala has an important potential for geothermal power because it's located in a volcanic area. We are above three shifting tectonic plates; we have 34 volcanoes. We estimate we have the potential to produce up to 1000 Megawatts, to exploit in the use of electrical energy and other uses."
Some 1,640 feet (500 meters) below the summit of Pacaya, pipes carrying steam and water at 347 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) snake across the mountainside to one of two geothermal plants currently operating in the country. Run by Israeli-owned Ormat Technologies Inc, the plant harnesses energy from water heated by chambers filled with molten rock deep beneath the ground. Geothermal power plants, while expensive to build, can provide a long-term, reliable source of electricity.
They are considered more environmentally friendly than large hydroelectric dams that can alter a country's topography.
Ormat's project is only a 20 MW station but Guatemala says the country has the potential to produce up to 1,000 MW of geothermal energy, a third of projected energy needs in 2022.
Guatemala only produces a tiny amount of its own oil and spends about $2 billion a year on imports. The aim is to save money on energy costs and join international efforts to cut green house gas emissions.
[Yossi Shilon, Ormat's Representative in Guatemala]:
"Apart from extracting geothermal fluid from the producing wells, it is injected back into the ground hardly affecting the reservoir below ground. There is no further dilution of the geothermal source such as in the case of oil. For me, it's a fantastic illusion to substitute any source of energy production delivered by carbon oxide."
Guatemala, Central America's biggest country, aims to produces 60 percent of its energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power by 2022.
The government is offering tax breaks on equipment to set up geothermal plants and electricity regulators are requiring distributors buy greater proportions of clean energy.