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Santiago's Metro System to Become World's First to Be Powered Largely by Solar and Wind

Energy

The subway system in Chile’s capital will soon be the world's first to run largely on renewable energy sources.

Santiago's metro has 103 kilometers of tracks and 108 stations, making it the second-longest metro system in Latin America after Mexico City. Photo credit: Flickr

The Metro de Santiago, the second-longest metro system in Latin America after Mexico City, has signed two agreements, one with a solar energy provider and another with a wind power company, which will provide 60 percent of metro's energy needs by 2018.

An announcement of the $500 million deal was made last week by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during a visit to the National Stadium station that's currently under construction.

"More than two and a half million passengers use the Metro daily," she said. "[They] will not only be able to travel faster and safer; they will also be able to travel in a means of transport that cares for the planet, which reduces our carbon footprint and that makes possible a sustainable future for all."

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet announces on May 23 that the Metro de Santiago will become the world's first metro to run mostly on renewables. Photo credit: SunPower Corp

California solar company SunPower, an affiliate of French oil company Total, will begin construction of the El Pelícano Solar Project, a 100-megawatt facility near the municipalities of La Higuera and Vallenar. The solar plant, expected to go live by the end of 2017, will supply 300 gigawatt hours per year of clean energy to Metro de Santiago, or 42 percent of its annual energy demands.

"SunPower is proud to serve Metro of Santiago's growing energy demand with cost-competitive, renewable solar power," Eduardo Medina, the executive vice president of SunPower's global power plants, said. "Solar is an ideal energy source for Chile because of the country's high solar resource and transparent energy policies. In partnership with Total, SunPower is committed to the continued growth of our business in Chile."

As for wind power, the metro will receive 18 percent of its energy needs from a 185-megawatt San Juan wind project developed by Spain-based Elecnor and owned by Brazilian renewable energy firm Latin America Power, according to Quartz.

Quartz noted that both solar and wind projects will start service in 2018 and supply the metro for the next 15 years. The metro will receive its remaining 40 percent of its energy needs from the Chilean electric distribution company Chilectra.

The Natural Resources Defense Council noted that the amount of energy generated by the wind and solar projects for the metro will be equivalent to the energy needs of 104,000 homes. Not only that, the impressive initiative is expected to mitigate 130,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

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The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

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"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

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