Conservacion Patagonica IDIOMA: ESPAƑOL

Renewable Energy System

Conservacion Patagonica is working to make the future Patagonia National Park the world's first major national park that's energy-independent, powered entirely by small-scale sources of renewable energy. Not only will our forward-thinking energy system minimize the park's carbon footprint, it will also provide a model for visitors of how energy systems of the 21st century should (and can) function.

To maximize energy efficiency, we design all buildings with excellent insulation, far better than the standard in the region, to keep buildings heated through long cold Patagonian winters. We've also designed park facilities and living spaces with flexible seasonal use areas: during winter months, only certain portions of the buildings will be kept warm. All household appliances, water pumps, and the like use the most efficient technology available. Buildings use high efficiency LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, which use a fraction of the energy of compact fluorescents and contain no mercury.

Electricity for the park facilities is being generated locally with a micro-hydro turbine installed in 2005, and wind speed monitoring has been underway since 2006 to determine whether small-scale wind generation is feasible for the park project's ultimate energy mix. Various park buildings are being fitted with cylindrical parabolic solar concentrators that produce both hot water and electricity. Although the solar radiation in the Chacabuco Valley is low, this efficient dual solar technology (thermal and photovoltaic simultaneous production), is anticipated to contribute 100 percent of the total needed energy for heating and hot water, and a significant percentage of the electric consumption in each building.

The next stage of the park's renewable energy system will be the development of a hydrogen energy storage and transport system. Developing an efficient mode of storing electricity is essential for localized renewable energy projects, since periods of high production (e.g., windy days) may not correspond with times of high consumption. In Patagonia, energy storage is a particularly crucial issue, as wind energy is highly seasonal.

The future energy system will employ wind-generated electricity to perform water electrolysis, using an electric current to break apart the H2O molecule, thus creating pure hydrogen. Hydrogen gas is then captured and compressed into tanks to facilitate transport and storage. Once in its elemental form, hydrogen has a high potential to generate energy: when combined with oxygen, the reaction releases a substantial amount of energy as water is formed. Hydrogen technology emits virtually no unwanted gases or byproducts in production and consumption. The park would use stored hydrogen as a fuel for tractors, trucks, and boats, and as an energy source for the visitor center, guesthouse, employee housing, offices, and ranger stations. This flagship project will be the first non-experimental hydrogen energy system in Latin America, and is expected to be operational by 2015 - 2016.

Hydrogen energy may prove crucial to the Patagonia region, allowing residents to benefit from locally produced renewable energy without requiring ecologically damaging transmission lines to extend the power grid. Since a small hydrogen fuel cell can provide energy to a group of houses, widespread adoption of that technology could eventually replace gas or diesel-powered generators and reduce firewood consumption. This form of potentially renewable, distributed energy production also offers a stark contrast with the proposal to dam Patagonia's wild rivers for massive hydroelectric stations that would require an enormous transmission system to send the power to distant urban markets.

Learn more

Towards an Energy-Independent Park: Consultation and Analysis from MIT Team
(2/20/14) When CP set out to create a model flagship park, we aimed to develop not only energy-efficient, durable architecture but also a local, renewable energy system that would make the park an exemplar of small-scale energy independence.
Read more


Monitoring Energy Demand/Moving Toward Energy Independence
(12/7/11) Creating new parks saves critical pieces of wilderness, but operating parks takes energy, which may leave an ecological footprint of its own.
Read more