German wind OEM Enercon has signed an exclusivity agreement with Chilean utility Colbun to supply 132 of its E-160 EP5 turbines with a 4.6MW rating for the 607MW Horizonte wind project in the Atacama Desert that is slated to be the country’s largest when it starts operating in 2024.

The first wind turbines are to be installed in 2022, and an increase in the project’s capacity to 140 turbines might be possible, Enercon said in the latest edition of its in-house magazine Windblatt.

As seismic activity can be expected at the site due to its location on the boundary between two tectonic plates, Enercon is adapting its modular steel tower (MST) for the E-160 on the basis of site parameters and local regulations, which include the seismic code for the area. The calculations of the load dynamics run parallel to contract negotiations.

The energy generated will primarily be used by major customers in the region, such as mining companies, which aim to cover their future energy needs with renewables.

“Chile, with its increasing energy demand and support for renewable energy, offers considerable potential for the expansion of wind energy,” said Stefan Lütkemeyer, head of international sales at Enercon.

“In addition, the country has locations – such as the area in the Atacama Desert – with particularly good wind conditions for Enercon’s low wind turbines.”

One of the special weather characteristics of the region is that wind speeds there remain unchanged or even decrease with increasing hub heights, the manufacturer’s sales manager in Chile, Carla Tapia, explained.

Because of this low wind shear, the optimum hub height is between 90 and 110 meters, depending as well on the design of the wind turbines.

The site analysis has also shown that there are only little ambient turbulence in the region.

“This means that the site has ideal wind conditions for the E-160, which with its large rotor diameter can achieve high outputs in low wind areas,” Tapia said.

The area in the Atacama Desert in the Antafogasta region belongs to the Chilean government, which has transferred the usage rights for the about 8,000 hectares to Colbun for thirty years, starting in July 2024.