Thin-film manufacturer First Solar, in conjunction with developer Fundación Chile, has announced the acquisition of Solar Chile as part of its its endeavour to advance into new markets.

Solar Chile has a portfolio of early- to mid-stage utility-scale PV power projects totalling about 1.5GW in northern Chile, including the Atacama Desert region, which offers the highest solar irradiance in the world.

In November 2012, Solar Chile’s 90GW La Tirana Solar project was given the go-ahead from the Chilean environmental authority, Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental, which is to be equipped with 423,360 FS3 cadmium telluride thin film 90 watt PV modules from First Solar.

NPD Solarbuzz’s Emerging PV Markets Report: Latin America & Caribbean showed Mexico, Chile and Brazil to become mainstream markets, absorbing nearly 70% of demand.

First Solar CEO James Hughes said although Chile has high insulation levels, it was not the only factor when selecting a market to invest in: “Either they have significant energy shortages or they are burning hydrocarbons to produce electricity, and if they want to facilitate economic growth they have got to deliver renewables, including solar. So that [Chile] is another exciting market.”

"First Solar's acquisition of Solar Chile is a milestone of enormous significance to our country," said Alvaro Fischer, President of Fundación Chile. "It highlights the tremendous potential that solar PV energy has to change the demography and the economy of northern Chile, opening it up to new opportunities beyond mining and fishing, into water desalinization, hydrogen production or large green data centres."

"Chile faces a growing energy demand from its sustained economic growth," said Hernán Cheyre, Executive Vice-President of CORFO, the Chilean government's economic development agency. "Solar energy provides a sustainable and clean energy source that takes advantage of our outstanding clear skies and irradiance. The growth of the solar industry and the arrival of First Solar validates Chile’s position as a regional hub for entrepreneurship and innovation."

First Solar continues its expansion after the hiring of Tim Rebhorn, announced just yesterday, for the newly created position of Senior Vice President, Project Development.

Ted Meyer, Vice President, Corporate Communications, told PV-Tech, “We currently have more than 100 open positions. We have made recent senior hires of leaders to run our operations in China and South Africa (and in India earlier last year).

“We’ve announced we opened an office in South Africa, Dubai and are in the process of opening an office in Saudi Arabia. And we are continuing to add people and resources in new markets with high potential to become sustainable markets for solar power.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the five-person Solar Chile team is joining First Solar, and Fundación Chile will provide ongoing consultation services. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.