Chile’s Renewable Energy Center has announced that there are over 2500MW of PV and solar thermal projects in the pipeline for the country. The report suggests that projects amounting to 685MW are awaiting the start of construction after receiving environmental permits and a further 1903MW are awaiting permits.
Chile has been receiving an increasing amount of attention from solar developers in recent months. The Atacama Desert in the north of the country receives some of the highest levels of solar irradiance on earth, coupled with very low rainfall this makes Chile an ideal place for solar farms. Interested parties include German solar giant juwi, First Solar and Ingenostrum, which plans to build six solar PV projects totaling 688MW generating capacity and costing close to US$2 billion.
Many of the proposed solar projects are being funded by mining companies that are tapping Chile’s huge copper reserves but have been plagued by unreliable electricity sources. Mining currently consumes an estimated 80% of northern Chile’s electricity and it is expected the industry’s demand for power will grow 5% annually for the next few years.
Despite having no feed-in tariff or incentive scheme, Chile has set a target of obtaining 10% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2024. However, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera has recently said that the use of renewable energy sources could increase by as much as 20%. Currently just 4% of Chile’s electricity is produced from non-conventional renewable sources.