For nearly 4 months, people in Chile powered their homes for free. Here's what happened.

Chile is amazing at producing and implementing solar energy.

The coastal South American country recently breezed past its competition by becoming the first in Latin America to surpass a full gigawatt of installed solar energy, which can power around 750,000 homes.

The country also has plans to use 70% renewable energy by 2050, with solar at the forefront.


A solar plant in Pozo Almonte, Chile. Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images.

Which is good. Really good. As a matter of fact, it might be ... too good.

Chile's solar industry has expanded so quickly that for 113 days this year, solar energy in many parts of the country was free.

That's right.

Chile is generating so much solar energy, for 113 days they literally had to give it away for free.

Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images.

It's a huge win for consumers who, for nearly four months, got to rake in some free clean energy.

However, it's also a potential problem for business owners in Chile who are struggling with the fall of one industry and the blazing-fast rise of another.

If you go way back, the story all starts with copper. Yes, copper.

Chile is a huge exporter of copper, which contributes to the country's 6% annual economic growth. But lately, there's been a worldwide slowdown in the copper trade, and Chilean copper producers have been feeling the impact.

A copper mine in Calama, Chile. Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images.

Copper mining in Chile has ground to a near-halt, and copper mines everywhere are shutting down. As these mines shut down, the country as a whole requires less power than it did before. But all the solar farms are still producing, resulting in a solar surplus.

Energy companies can't just give away energy forever, though.

If they do, the companies will have to fold, and then Chileans won't have solar energy at all.

“Investors are losing money,” said Rafael Mateo, whose energy firm is investing $343 million in Chilean solar energy projects. "Growth was disordered. You can’t have so many developers in the same place.”

Even when they're not giving it away for free, from a business standpoint, Chile's solar energy is still problematically cheap.

The Atacama region, for example, clocked about $60 per megawatt-hour for most of March, according to Bloomberg. That's $10 less than the minimums set by the companies that won bids to sell their solar energy there.


Photo by Vladimir Rodas/AFP/Getty Images.

So while Chilean energy consumers are probably pretty happy about their tiny and/or nonexistent electric bills, energy companies aren't as thrilled .

Let's look at the bright side here, though. (That's where the sun is, after all.)

Realistically, Chile is demonstrating how successful a clean energy product can be if you truly commit to investing in it.

In fact, we've seen things like this happen before in other countries: Portugal managed to go 107 hours without using fossil fuels by investing serious cash-money into multiple clean energy projects, and Germany managed to bump up clean energy production so much that it had to pay its citizens to use it for seven hours.

Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images.

All over the world, people are investing in renewable energy and finding out just how wildly successful it can be.

We may still need to recalibrate the settings so energy companies can stay alive while consumers get fair energy prices. But we'll get there.

For now, let's keep building.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

The 40-day fasting period of Ramadan observed by Muslims around the world is a both an individual and communal observance. For the individual, it's a time to grow closer to God through sacrifice and detachment from physical desires. For the community, it's a time to gather in joy and fellowship at sunset, breaking bread together after abstaining from food and drink since sunrise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited group gatherings in many countries, putting a damper on the communal part of Ramadan. But for one community in Barcelona, Spain, a different faith has stepped up to make the after sunset meal, known as Iftar, as safe as possible for the Muslim community.

According to Reuters, Father Peio Sanchez, Santa Anna's rector, has opened the doors of the Catholic church's open-air cloisters to local Muslims to use for breaking the Ramadan fast. He sees the different faiths coming together as a symbol of civic coexistence.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of CeraVe
True

"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

Keep Reading Show less