Chilean Minister of Energy Sees Paranal Connect to National Electricity Grid
4 August 2017
The Chilean Minister of Energy, Andrés Rebolledo, recently attended a ceremony marking the connection of ESO’s Paranal and Armazones sites, the latter being where the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will be located, to the Chilean national electricity grid. The new electricity supply will reduce costs and reduce the observatory’s carbon footprint.
Minister Rebolledo remarked on the importance of this development as an example of the capability of Chile’s electricity network and its ability to provide a safe, high-quality supply of energy for cutting-edge astronomical research.
Roberto Tamai, the ELT Programme Manager, who was the Project Manager for this ESO upgrade, thanked the Chilean government and institutions for helping to create the energy infrastructure that will underpin progress on the ELT site. With its 39-metre main mirror the construction of the ELT is a demanding technological and engineering challenge. Tamai stressed that the electricity supply is a key part of the infrastructure that will enable us to address some of the biggest questions: Where did we begin? Where will we end? Are we alone in the Universe?
The connection of the Paranal and Armazones sites to the Chilean electricity grid was made possible by Grupo SAESA, the company that is now responsible for delivering permanent and sustainable energy to the Paranal Observatory and to the ELT site. As the site is so remote, 130 kilometres from Antofagasta in the middle of the Atacama Desert, the project presented significant challenges; but it was successfully completed thanks to the efforts of more than 300 workers. The result includes a 66-kilovolt transmission system, 50 kilometres long, with two new substations: one at Paposo (220/66kV), called the Paranal substation; and the other between Paranal and Armazones (66/23kV), called the Armazones substation.
This connection will also reduce the carbon footprint of the Paranal and Armazones sites, as they will no longer use fossil fuels in generators to provide power. In his address, Roberto Tamai remarked that the expansion of the electric grid brought the additional benefit of being able to take advantage of the abundant sunlight to produce clean energy that can be injected into the national electricity system.
The ELT will use the Universe as the ultimate scientific laboratory, making observations currently unachievable by any ground-based telescope to answer some of the most demanding astronomical questions of our time. The ELT is expected to see first light in 2024.
ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czechia, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.
- Map showing the Paranal and Armazones grid connections
- Green ESO information
- Read more about ELT on the ESO website
- Latest news and press-releases about the ELT
- ELT FAQ page
- Images and videos of the ELT
- Roberto Tamai’s speech (in Spanish only)
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About the Announcement