Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Quiñones G., Felbol C., Valenzuela C., Cardemil J.M., Escobar R.A. (2020)

Analyzing the potential for solar thermal energy utilization in the Chilean copper mining industry

Revista : Solar Energy
Volumen : 197
Páginas : 292-310
Tipo de publicación : ISI Ir a publicación


Copper mining is the largest industry and energy consumer in Chile, utilizing heat from imported fossil fuels of which Chile is not a producer. The goals for decarbonization present opportunities to analyze how the Chilean industry can become sustainable with significant shares of renewable energy including solar heat. The present study analyzes the integration of solar heating to the copper refining process in order to gain insights on the technical, economical, and emissions performance of solar heating systems for the largest copper mining operations in Chile. The solar technologies considered in the analysis are flat plate, evacuated tube, and parabolic trough collectors. The results are validated by comparing with publicly available data from existing solar heating plants in copper mining facilities showing that solar plants are able to supply partially the thermal energy demand, although at different costs in terms of capital and operation and maintenance requirements. The economic analysis indicates that with current fossil fuel prices, solar heating technologies are a valid alternative for cost and emissions reduction in copper mining. Flat plate collectors show the lowest cost for solar heat when compared to evacuated tube and parabolic trough systems considering identical sets of technical and financial parameters. The parametric and sensitivity analysis indicate that the conditions under which solar heating is competitive with traditional fossil-fired heaters. which might still be required as backup systems in order to provide heat in a 24/7 regime, and in all the cases analyzed, a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions can be achieved.