Camar Atacameña Community Will Run on 100% Solar Power

Camar Atacameña Community Will Run on 100% Solar Power


The photovoltaic power station will produce 140 kWp and 720 kWh of storage, benefiting the 47 families who currently call the historical town home.

The Payment to the Earth ceremony is the ritual customarily used by the Camar community before any important milestone. This time, they asked the Pachamama (Mother Earth) to bless the inauguration of the photovoltaic power station that will provide energy for the 47 families who reside in this area in Salar de Atacama.

This is an important project for Chile, since the community is now being powered by 100% solar energy. According to the residents themselves, it is a dream come true, following several years of work to outline the community’s most important needs and then implement their Development Plan.

“The photovoltaic power facility was formerly an aspiration but is now reality, and we are celebrating the success of this project. We can generate important initiatives for the town with support from companies like SQM, which helped us with design, development and execution. We must respond to the needs of our people, our senior citizens, and sustainably move our community into the future,” said Héctor Cruz, the president of the Camar Atacameña Indigenous Community.

The leader added that they have been working hard since 2017 to achieve various community development objectives and they completed one of the most important projects in 2020, hand in hand with signing an engagement agreement with SQM to drive the town’s growth, strengthen economic and social development and make Camar a community that is sustainable over time.

Lorenzo Mendoza, a resident and leader of the Camar Community, explains how the issue of power used to be difficult because it only functioned at certain times of the day. Then they built systems with a generator, but availability was also limited and the power deficit affected several aspects of daily life in the town.

“We couldn’t have refrigerators to store food. Everything went to waste. It was hard to wash and many had unmet medical needs, especially the older adults. We had no light. Everyone used candles and other methods. This project is a dream. Now people can see themselves staying in the town, buying a refrigerator, a washer, even a TV. This improves people’s quality of life,” he concluded.

The photovoltaic project is one of the good outcomes from the agreement between the community and SQM. For Carlos Díaz, a senior vice president at the company, “This important milestone was accomplished after four years of working closely with the people of Camar. They wanted a photovoltaic power station with independent energy to be able to light and power all of their houses and there is even enough energy to run an osmosis plant for drinking water. Today Camar is more independent and self-sustainable. At SQM we are committed to supporting Camar’s challenges so it can make progress over time.”

The project consists of designing and building a 140 kWp photovoltaic power station with 720 kWh of storage. It has six rows of PV modules, each consisting of 56 440 W panels and three general inverters that absorb power from two rows of panels each.

The photovoltaic plant will generate electricity 24 hours a day mainly using energy obtained from solar radiation, which has sufficient power to supply the entire town of Camar.

The initiative will also help the area progress by developing the tourism and culinary sectors along with diverse heritage festivals and other pending projects in the Camar Development Plan, such as the future drinking water plant, public lighting and facilities for community use.

The initiative was described as sustainable by some of the residents themselves, because it will not only provide electric power, but will also replace the use of the current generator and, above all, help reduce greenhouse gases. Specifically, the decrease in CO2 is equivalent to removing 40 cars per year from the town’s streets.

The SQM-financed project was designed by Energía Atacama and built by Korean-owned Synertec.