First Solar facility in Chile delivers range of grid services commercially

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The 141MW Luz del Norte facility is helping to maintain grid reliability and stability in Chile. Image: First Solar.

First Solar has claimed its 141MW Luz del Norte solar project is the “world’s first” utility-scale solar facility licensed to provide ancillary grid services commercially.

Chile’s independent system operator (ISO) Coordinador Eléctrico Nacional recently added Luz del Norte to its portfolio of large-scale power generators that are approved to deliver a range of grid services, including automatic generation control (AGC).

Located in the Atacama Region and commissioned in 2016, the facility is now being used by the ISO to manage the frequency of the country’s electricity system, helping ensure the grid’s reliability and stability.

“We are very pleased with this achievement as this increases the spectrum of technologies capable of providing the services needed to maintain a safe and reliable operation of the electrical system,” said Carlos Barría of Chile’s Ministry of Energy.

First Solar said utility-scale solar’s grid capabilities were previously proven as part of 2016 project a carried out by the company alongside the California Independent Systems Operator and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The study examined a First Solar-designed power plant’s ability to provide AGC, primary frequency control, ramp rate control and voltage regulation. It found that the PV power plant performed better than fast gas turbine technologies.

Troy Lauterbach, senior vice president, First Solar Energy Services, lauded Chile’s “visionary” approach to designing its future grid, which has allowed the company “to take a proven concept and implement a commercially and technically viable solution”.

“As utility companies and ISOs around the world grapple with the challenge of decarbonising their grids, Luz del Norte has come to represent the realisable potential of large-scale solar,” said Lauterbach. “By delivering a combination of clean electricity and no-carbon grid services, it demonstrates the value of investing in large-scale solar.”

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