The responsible use of water and its protection is essential for safeguarding natural ecosystems and the wellbeing of the people that inhabit them, as it is for the success of our operations. That is why it is one of the strategic goals of our environmental policy, which adopts an integrated approach to ensure the optimal management of water.

l/kWh specific water requirements
of water extracted in water-stressed areas
million cubic meters total water extracted for the process of closed cycle cooling

In order to ensure the sustainability of our activities in terms of water resource use and management, three main guidelines have been identified:

  • The efficient use of water resources, reducing water requirements in all productive processes and, where possible, promoting internal reuse, with particular attention to water-stressed areas.
  • The optimization of waste treatment and the safeguarding of water quality in the destination environment, through the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and management practices. This is in full compliance with the limits outlined by the national regulations and the relevant authorities.
  • The responsible and integrated management of water catchment areas in order to preserve multiple land uses and water quality.

On the subject of responsible water resource management, various projects have been launched with the aim of mapping the requirements and sources of extraction at all thermoelectric and renewable production sites. This is in order to set new goals for reducing the water footprint through the planning of a series of innovative improvement measures particularly in water-stressed areas.

Enel has also implemented various projects for hydroelectric plants in order to support a responsible and integrated approach to watershed management. This is with the aim of preserving multiple land uses and water quality.

The WaVE project– The circular reuse of water at the San Isidro plant

The San Isidro combined cycle plant in Chile consists of two units with an overall capacity of 778 MW and is essential for meeting the country’s energy needs. It is located in a particularly water-stressed area that is subject to frequent and prolonged periods of drought. Reducing water use is therefore extremely important for preserving water resources and making them available for other local stakeholders, in addition to ensuring operational continuity.

The plant has launched a partnership with other local economic operators with the aim of recovering the bleed off water from the evaporation towers for reuse in mining industry processes. The project enables the towers to operate at their maximum efficiency with the minimum water requirements, resulting in a saving for the plant of approximately 500 thousand cubic meters of water each year. At the same time, the mining industry can avoid using a direct supply of new water, and is an important example of how the circular economy can bring benefits to all stakeholders within the water catchment area. The recovered water is used in the mining process for grinding and transporting minerals in a closed circuit in which it is recirculated until it runs out.

The initiative is also in synergy with the forthcoming activation at the plant of a ZLD (Zero Liquid Discharge) plant, for which pilot trials are under way. The project will enable the saline bleed off from the cooling towers to be sent not only to the mine but also to the ZLD recovery plant.

The project is part of a broader context of actions to optimize the use of water in evaporation towers, which is one of the processes with the highest intensity of water use at our production plants. Other actions include the adoption in 2021 at the Ventanilla and Santa Barbara plants of advanced chemical control systems that had already been launched at the Pietrafitta plant. These enable the towers to operate at a higher concentration of cycles, thereby reducing the water needs for reintegration.


Mechanized washing of solar panels in Panama

In Panama photovoltaic production extends to seven plants, with a total of around 375 thousand panels for an overall capacity of 62 MW. The humid tropical climate, combined with the presence nearby of sugar cane and oil processing plants, in addition to vehicle traffic, means that the panels quickly become dirty and require cleaning at least once a year in order to avoid deterioration. Until now the cleaning has been performed manually, but recently the activity has been improved by adopting a semiautomatic cleaning system. This uses low quantities of water and employs a motorized unit equipped with a special brush that extends across the entire surface of the panel and is able to move along the entire row of modules, performing cleaning operations in one continuous action.

The saving on water compared with manual cleaning is estimated to be around 68%, which corresponds to more than half a million liters of water over the course of a normal year of activity.

In the future the initiative can be further upgraded to include the storage and reuse of rainwater on site instead of having to source water from wells, thereby further reducing the pressure on local water resources.