Construction underway for Panama’s self-styled largest solar plant

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Image credit: Flickr / Andrew Campbell

The utility-scale solar momentum slowly coursing through Latin America looks set to extend to one of the region’s smallest countries, with a large project now progressing through construction.

Inelsa, an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) group headquartered in Spain, is now working to deploy a 150MW PV installation in Panamá.

According to the firm, the solar plant will boast some 450,000 modules rolled out across a 300-hectare site, generating enough power to sustain 160,000 average households.

In statements echoed by Spanish media, Inelsa boss Manuel Domínguez said the numbers make the solar project the largest witnessed to date in Panamá.

According to IRENA, the four-million-inhabitant country was home to an estimated 165MW in installed PV capacity as of December 2019.

The PV project roster reaching completion to date includes Solarcentury’s 9.9MW Divisa Solar, completed in early 2016 with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Another key name so far in Panaman solar is Enel, who currently runs the up-and-running 12MW Chiriqui plant in the country’s west and a larger 42MW batch nearer the Panama Canal.  

The 42MW PV complex – with plants of 5MW, 8MW, 11MW, 10MW and 8MW – was completed in 2017 after investments of US$55 million and is now supplying Enel’s Fortuna hydro power plant.

Elsewhere in Panama, Spanish group Gransolar announced in 2019 it had finished deploying a 40MW solar portfolio, with four 10MW plants powered up near the city of David.

Panama – which draws almost half of its revenues from its interoceanic canal, completed in 2017 – expects PV, wind and hydro to account for a joint 77% of installed capacity by 2050.

Last May, IRENA warned the country would need to revamp its regulatory framework to reach the clean energy goalpost, including changes to how PV and wind are remunerated under PPAs.

For Inelsa, the work in Panama adds to the 2GW energy portfolio it claims to have deployed worldwide, with PV and concentrated solar plants delivered in Europe, America and the Middle East.

The prospects and challenges of Latin American solar and storage will take centre stage at Solar Media's Energy Storage Latin America, to be held in Colombia on 28-29 April 2020.

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