Chile’s utility-scale energy sector appears to be racing ahead in its deployment of vast solar PV plants, with the announcement of a 246.6MWp project by Spanish company Acciona Energia.

The announcement follows on the heels of EDF Energies Nouvelles appointing Exosun to supply trackers for another 146MWp project in the Latin American country that was first announced in April, while Pattern Energy Group has already started development on a 122MW project.

Acciona Energia claims the 246.6MWp (196MW AC) plant will be the largest PV plant in Latin America when completed and one of the 10 biggest in the world, although at the rate of development seen so far in Chile, it would perhaps not be a surprise to see it trumped again before long.

In April this year PV Tech reported that the amount of PV capacity under construction in the country doubled in the previous month alone, hitting 2.58GW. Previously, in 2014, the country’s president Michelle Bachelet had proclaimed that the republic was aiming to become a “leader in renewable energy”.

The developer will invest US$343 million in the project, which is in Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the regions of the world richest in solar irradiance. El Romero Solar, as the facility will be known, is tentatively pencilled in to be completed by mid-2017, producing around 505GWh of electricity annually.

Acciona Energia was awarded a tender by the Chilean government in 2014 to develop 600GWh of renewables that would feed in to distribution concession holders on the country’s main AC power grid, the SIC (Central Interconnected System). The 600GWh of projects will require a total investment of around US$500 million, Acciona Energia said.

Meanwhile, Exosun said this week that it will supply trackers to the EDF Energies Nouvelles project, also in the Atacama Desert. The company’s Exotrack HZ horizontal single-axis solar trackers will support almost 280,000 PV modules in an installation which sits on “rocky, hilly, desert land”, Exosun said. Exosun claims it will be able to install the trackers at the rate of 1MWp per day.

Mirror of Tarapaca

While the latest projects are undoubtedly vast in both area and capacity, the Mirror of Tarapaca (Cielos de Tarapaca), an ambitious project proposed by Chilean developer Valhalla Energy at the beginning of the year would see a 600MW PV plant developed, in combination with 300MW of pumped hydro storage. The plant, if it goes ahead, would therefore be capable of providing 24/7 access to solar-generated power and is tentatively scheduled to begin construction in 2016. PV Tech contacted Valhalla Energy this morning for the latest news on the project but did not receive a reply in time for publication.  

As for the wider Latin America region, this week the Latin American and Caribbean Solar Alliance (LACSA) trade group was launched by a partnership of international PV developer Conergy and tracker tech company NEXTracker.