ATACAMA: Renewable Energy and Mining in the High Desert of Chile
Chile is the world's leading copper exporter and the second-largest lithium producer. We use Chilean copper and lithium daily in our cars, computers, and smartphones. Chile's mining industry historically depended on imported coal, diesel, and natural gas for its energy. Yet, the geography of the Atacama Desert offers excellent solar and wind potential. Since 2017, when I first photographed over the Atacama, the country has tripled its renewable energy capacity. New solar, wind, and storage projects supply electricity to the grid, transmit power to population centers in the South, provide electricity and solar thermal energy to mines, and reduce mining's dependence on fossil fuels. Over the past five years, many mines have transitioned to 100% renewable energy for their electricity needs. With the cost of solar and wind electricity production below that of coal, renewable energy provides a viable economic opportunity for mines with the added benefit of reducing the industry's carbon footprint. Chile's innovative approach offers hope and inspiration to other countries.
This series, photographed in 2022, continues my examination of the evolving nexus between renewable energy development and mining in Chile's Atacama Desert.