Enel Green Power (EGP) has started building Chile’s self-styled “first hybrid industrial plant” in the midst of the COVID-19 state of emergency, with PV panels set to join pre-existing wind turbines.
Earlier this week, the firm announced construction has gotten underway to deploy the 60.9MW Azabache solar plant in the Atacama Desert, side by side with the 90MW Valle de los Vientos wind power complex that lies nearby since it was completed in late 2013.
The PV add-on at the site near the city of Calama (Antofagasta Region) will require US$49 million in investment and boast 154,710 bifacial panels. The solar arrays should finalise construction by early 2021, EGP said in its prepared statement this week.
The launch of construction works in Atacama comes as Chile remains under a nationwide state of emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis. With 53,617 cases reported at the time of writing, the country has rolled out curfews and two weeks of mandatory quarantining for both Chileans and foreigners.
EPG said that “rigorous work protocols” have been implemented to ensure the safety of staff at the Azabache PV site, from compulsory PPE [personal protective equipment] to social distancing measures. The firm noted that the construction works will grow to employ some 230 workers at peak time.
Bifacial spree as activity resumes in Chile, Spain
For EGP, the construction kick-off in Chile comes after than a month after the firm broke ground on a 50MW PV project in Spain, joining Iberdrola, Solarpack and others as they all returned to working sites left vacant by a 10-day freeze of non-essential activities.
In company results and webinar statements, the firm has sought to play down the impacts of COVID-19 on its renewable pipeline. In late March, Enel-wide CEO Francesco Starace said the group did not expect any issues in 2020 beyond what “normally would have been the case”.
At a SolarPower Europe online panel in mid-April, EGP’s head of Europe Aristotelis Chantavas said the firm predicted “slight, but not significant” impacts. “What can happen is a postponing of some months with projects in countries that are seriously affected by this pandemic,” Chantavas added.
The choice of bifacial PV for Chile’s supposed first hybrid is the latest of a series for Enel. The firm has turned to two-sided modules to power major solar ventures in Chile (317MW Taltal and 181MW Lalackama III) but also Brazil (608MW São Gonçalo) and Mexico (220MW Magdalena II).
In Chile, bifacial has also been Enel’s preference for a 382MW PV plant in Atacama, known as Campos del Sol. Under construction since last August, the construction site has enlisted autonomous drones to ensure that deployment runs smoothly.
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