Atacama Solar Race launched in Santiago
SANTIAGO- While the Dakar Rally today left Chile, a different type of race was launched in Santiago. November 2012 will bring the second Atacama Solar Challenge. The first edition of the event was held in October 2011, being won by Chilean team Antakari.
The race brings together teams from across South America, using the strong solar radiation in the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world. There are categories for completely solar powered vehicles, as well as those powered by a combination of solar and pedal power.
Minister of Energy Rodrigo Alvarez presided over the launch, held at the Vizcachas racetrack on the outskirts of Santiago. The launch also formalized the name change from “Atacama Solar Race” to “Atacama Solar Challenge”. Representatives from Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Puerto Rico were in attendance at the launch.
The Minister said he hoped events like the Solar Challenge would get the general public more interested in Non Conventional Renewable Energy. “In the future we will not just have solar car races, but this type of energy will be a large contributor to society.
Chile held a Solar Power conference in June 2011, discussing the current situation and potential future of solar energy in Chile. Some debate that the cost of the equipment is still prohibitive, while others argue that the Atacama, with strong sunlight all year round, is the perfect place for a solar industry.
Last year’s event was the first race of its kind in South America. Some of the crafts reached up to 75km per hour. Just as in the Dakar Rally, which has made its way through the Atacama after crossing the Andes from Argentina, racers are faced with sand dunes, mud, rocks and other challenging surfaces. The first ever solar race, the Tour de Sol was held in Switzerland in 1985.
The vehicles take on an a similar look to a spaceship, with design considerations including aerodynamics as well as the best angle for the photo-voltaic cells to absorb the energy of the sun. The 2012 edition of the race will be held in November and traverse over 1,000km between Iquique, Calama and Antofagasta.