Ilo and a new place to call home
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

May 3, 2015

Ilo is a town that has the small town atmosphere yet still bigger than one would expect. With almost 100,000 people, it sits on the southern coast of Peru, a few hundred kilometers north of Chile. I have yet to explore large areas around Ilo, but there seems to be really only two options of going north or south as going east puts one quickly into the foothills of the Andes, surrounded by sand and rock. Located just north of the Atacama, the driest place in the world, driving out of Ilo quickly gives way to the coastal desert. Mostly baize in color, streaks of reds, oranges, and white make appearances in the rock and open sandscape. It is a dry place. A river flows from the Andes out towards sea through Ilo, but seems comparable to that of my creek back home, the Santa Fe River.

The small town feeling prevails through the low buildings and central plaza. No grocery stores are to be found but a series of small markets and fruit stands fill the gap. A few dozen artisanal fishing boats dot the port, rising and falling with each passing wave. Although small, industry is still here in a big way. Southern Copper, the largest mining conglomerate in the world out of Mexico, has two mines south of Ilo with a dedicated rail line through Ilo to the north of the town where their refinery and smelter are located. Trains rumble through town each day to and fro carrying raw ore, fuel, and chemicals to process the materials. Just south of Ilo, a 500 MW coal-fired power plant operates to provide the needed power for Southern Copper, as well as the town. I hear they are changing it over to gas due to huge influx of gas on the market, thanks to the environmental disaster called fracking. A couple of oil tankers are lining up and sit anchored off the coast, waiting for the waves to die down so that they may make landfall and offload their oil.

With all the use of energy here, it is amazing to feel the warmth of the sun on my back, the wind on my face coming off the ocean, and watch as two-meter waves crash up and down the coast for hundreds of kilometers in both directions. All I see is clean energy and yet the infrastructure of fossil fuels everywhere.

Ideally, within the next two months, we’ll be able to deploy our demonstration wave energy system off the coast here and begin to show, if all but the beginnings, the potential of just one of these clean energy sources. Who knows, maybe one day the oil tankers will stop arriving and the power plant will work to collect dust. That would be ideal. There is much to do and looking around the empty house I just moved into, I wonder how long I will call this new place home.

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