The dam in Chile’s enormous PV pipeline appears to have well and truly burst now, with US developer SunEdison finalising funding for its latest mega-scale solar power plant in the Latin American country.  

Only days after its compatriot, First Solar, announced the beginning of work on what will be the region’s largest PV power plant, SunEdison said it had closed the financing for the 72.8MW Maria Elena project in Antofagasta.

The US$155 million non-recourse debt financing package has been agreed with the US development body the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the Inter-American Development Bank, the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) and Chilean commercial bank, CorpBanca.

OPIC is providing US$48.9 million of debt and the IDB US$50.3 million of debt directly, while also administering the US$16.0 million of debt from the CTF. CorpBanca is providing a parallel loan of US$39.8 million in addition to providing a local Chilean Peso VAT facility for the equivalent of US$35 million, the first time a local bank has participated in providing debt for a merchant solar project in Chile, SunEdison said.

Although not SunEdison’s largest project in Chile, Maria Elena is nonetheless a behemoth, generating power that will be sold on the spot market and injected directly into Chile’s Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande grid.

As part of its strategy to retain the value from its power plant projects, SunEdison will own and operate the plant, which the company said was due for interconnection later this year.

Jose Perez, president, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America for SunEdison, said: "Today marks a new milestone in the energy industry – this power plant demonstrates that photovoltaic solar energy can compete with traditional energy sources and win. It is an international benchmark for the development of solar energy."

Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC's president and CEO, added: "This is an exciting and important project that will advance the field of renewable energy in a country with solar power deployment that's growing at an impressive pace. SunEdison is a global partner of OPIC's, and with the closing of this loan, we are proud to continue supporting this global leader in clean energy while helping Chile expand its own renewable power capacity."

SunEdison already has two utility-scale PV plants completed in Chile – the 100MW Amanecer and 50MW San Andres plants, which are both in the Atacama Desert.

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