The expansion of the solar power industry in Chile continues with two new large-scale projects planned by First Solar and SunEdison.
Chile’s Environmental Evaluation Service (SEA), the environmental regulatory body in charge of project licensing, announced that US thin-film solar firm First Solar has approached the government regulator with plans for a US$370 million, 162MW solar park in Luz Del Norte. The park will include around 1.7 million modules, produce around 480,000 GWh of electricity annually and is slated to begin construction in June 2014. Luz del Norte is in the Atacama region of Chile, thought to be among the areas of the world with the highest levels of solar irradiance.
The construction and operation of the facility is expected to be non-subsidised and follows First Solar’s January 2013 acquisition of Solar Chile, a photovoltaic project developer based in Santiago, which was created in partnership between the Chilean government and various mining companies.
Demand for the solar energy generated by the Luz del Norte project is expected to come primarily from the Chilean mining industry, which has been looking to find ways to improve its green credentials as well as potentially warding off shocks arising from fluctuating electricity costs and a sometimes unreliable grid.
The previous week, the SEA announced that the Chilean subsidiary of US firm SunEdison also filed plans to construct a large new solar plant in the north of the country. The 92MW plant is expected to be built at a cost of around US$241 million, in Tarapaca, also located in the north of Chile. This follows the 100MW development SunEdison announced in January, approved in May this year, that it will be constructing in conjunction with the Chilean mining and steel group CAP in the Atacama desert.