Ecuador seeks developers of 200MW solar plant

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Players from Germany, Denmark, Spain, Canada, China and others were briefed this week on the upcoming tender for a 200MW PV project and a 110MW wind duo (Credit: CELEC)

Ecuadorian solar is poised for a major boost under government plans to tender for a utility-scale installation in the country’s west.

A crowd of 45 foreign firms attended this week's presentation of a public process to choose a developer for a 200MW PV plant in the Manabí province, by the Pacific Ocean.

Players from Germany, Denmark, Spain, Canada, China, South Korea, Japan, the US, Colombia and Chile were briefed on the upcoming tender, set to formally launch on 28 August.

The El Aromo solar project will be tendered alongside a 110MW wind power duo. The PV and wind schemes will each take up US$200 million of a US$400 million total budget.

According to Ecuador’s state-owned utility CELEC, the project will be built at a site where irradiation reaches a yearly 140kWh per square metre.

El Aromo, CELEC explained, will be linked to the grid via a 230kV substation of San Juan de Manta.

The plant will stand near grounds initially meant to host a major oil refinery project, which descended into liquidation earlier this year, amid media reports of cost overruns.

Solar moves of hydro-reliant Latin America

Once operational, the El Aromo solar is expected to produce 280GWh per year, enough to cover 22% of power demand in Manabí province. Its capacity factor will sit at 15.9%, CELEC said.

According to estimates from the utility, the 200MW solar project will save Ecuador annual 128,000 CO2 tonnes, plus US$9 million that would otherwise be spent every year on fuel-based generation.

El Aromo will also create synergies with Ecuador’s hydropower, CELEC added, noting the potential to prop up generation when the dry season hits the rivers of the Amazon basin.

Should it be delivered with the current 200MW size, the project would mark a significant scale-up for Ecuador’s dormant solar ecosystem.

IRENA estimates the Andean state was home to 26MW in installed PV capacity in 2018, while PV generation remained, according to government data, low last year. 

At 38.08GWh, solar produced the smallest output (0.13%) of all Ecuadorian energy sources last year, behind hydropower’s 20,684.8GWh (70.73%) but also wind’s 80.26GW (0.27%).

The use of non-hydro renewables to limit drought-driven shortages is a strategy also followed by neighbour Colombia, which runs auctions open to solar specifically with this aim.

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