Seventeen applications for solar projects have received approval for land concessions from the Chilean government.

The Ministry of National Assets, which is in charge of managing and administrating state property in Chile, has approved 24 'non-conventional renewable energy' (NCRE) project applications, which total over 12,707 hectares of land, for land concessions.

Seven applications are wind farms, totaling 889MW, and 17 are solar, totaling 604MW.

The Minister of National Assets, Rodrigo Perez, said these projects would be a future contribution to Chile’s energy capacity, which currently stands at 17,000MW and is composed of 3% NCRE, 34% hydro and 63% thermal generation

All the concessions awarded have been given to foreign companies including Enel, Mainstream and SunEdison.

Enel has two PV projects totalling 265MW to be built in the Antofagasta region which were approved in June 2013.

SunEdison signed an agreement in January 2013, to build a 100MW solar plant in the Atacama with the Chilean mining and steel group (CAP), and Chile’s Environmental Evaluation Service (SEA) announced approval for SunEdison and First Solar’s US$370 million, 162 MW solar plant in Luz Del Norte.

Mainstream recently signed a US$1.4 billion deal with Actis to develop wind and solar projects in Chile.

An estimated total of 265 NCRE applications have been recorded applying for the access to land concessions – totalling over 10,000MW.

Of the 265 NCRE applications, 123 are concentrated in the Antofagasta region, 99 in Atacama and 25 in Tarpaca. The solar projects considered span an area of 50,478 hectares.

Minister Perez announced the 24 successful NCRE concession applicants, saying 795MW had already been approved by December 2012 with 16 NCRE initiatives in the north of Chile, totalling 7,858 hectares.

Of the 16 NCRE initiatives approved in 2012, 12 were solar projects.

Over the last seven months - with the 24 NCRE project awards - the authorised generating capacity in Chile has doubled from the original 795MW approved in 2012, to 1,493MW.

Solar project approval and investment has exploded in Chile over the last few months: Avenir Solar Energy Chile made an investment of US$450 million for a 196 MW solar project in Atacama, while the Chilean Foreign Investment Committee approved US$1.1 billion in PV solar investment from Sky Solar last month, for 300MW. 

Spanish developers Solarpack, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Institution Financière de Développment (PROPARCO) have also announced finance for a 25.4MW solar project and a 1.1MW project in Chile.

Also last month the International Finance Corp (IFC) approved US$49 million for ‘La Huayca II’ - a 29.1MW solar power plant in the Atacama region.

The US International Trade Administration predicts by 2015 Chile will produce 264MW of solar energy.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), Chile attracted US$159 million of solar investment in 2012, with 3.1GW of solar projects in development, and also predicted 1GW of solar power would be online by 2015, with 116MW grid connected by 2013.

The government of Chile’s national energy strategy for 2012-2030 aims for roughly 300MW of solar to be approved.

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