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Guatemala tapping volcanoes as new energy sources [Updated]

September 22, 2010 |  4:07 pm

Pacaya volcano

Dotted with volcanoes, Guatemala is seeking to harness their geothermal energy to create green power sources, part of a growing trend in Central America, Reuters reports.

By harnessing the heat of steam and water trapped deep under the active Pacaya volcano, Guatemala's two geothermal plants are already producing energy that serves as an alternative source to fossil-fuel power.

The plants, run by an Israeli company, are also hailed by environmentalists because they do not require widespread alteration of the landscape as hydroelectric dams do. Hydroelectric power sources also have a somewhat haunted history in Guatemala, with the Chixoy dam massacre of 1983, and are vulnerable to storms and hurricanes, which have increasingly beset the region.

Guatemala is offering tax breaks to companies willing to build more geothermal energy plants, and El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica are also investing in geothermal energy development, the news agency says.

Guatemala hopes to meet at least 60% of its energy needs (link in Spanish) through geothermal and hydroelectric sources by 2022, the country's National Electric Energy Commission says.

— Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

[For the record, 10 a.m. Sept. 23: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Guatemala hoped to meet as much as 60% of its energy needs with geothermal and hydroelectric sources. Officials hope to produce at least 60% of its needs through renewable energy by 2022.]

Photo: Pacaya volcano in Guatemala. Credit: