Solar park powering astronomical observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert

The photovoltaic facility of the Paranal Oservatory. Image: ESO y Grupo Saesa

A solar facility with an installed power of 9 MW has come online at the Paranal Observatory operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The PV plant is also intended to power the world’s largest telescope that is currently under construction at the observatory.

From pv magazine

The plant is divided into two sub-units with a capacity of 4 MW and 5 MW, respectively.

The first of the two facilities is aimed at covering the observatory’s current and projected demand during the day, when the greatest energy demand is produced by the cooling systems of the multiple telescopes operating there, including the Very Large Telescope (VLT), which is the world’s most advanced optical and near-infrared operational telescope.

The second installation is dimensioned to cover, also during the day under normal conditions, the total power demand of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which is currently under construction and set to become the largest optical telescope in the world with a main mirror of 39 meters in diameter.

The PV complex consists of 18,565 bifacial panels installed on trackers, distributed over 7.2 hectares of land, with a plant factor of 37%. Its construction took nine months and required a total investment of $10 million.

Excess energy from the plant will be injected into the National Electric System.

The start of operations of the ELT is scheduled for the end of this decade and it is claimed that it will be a telescope that will revolutionize astronomy since it should detect planets similar to Earth orbiting other stars. It could be the first instrument to find evidence of life outside our solar system.

Author: LUIS INI