Chile: Pace of PV development quickens

Chile’s power company E-CL, the largest power generator in the northern electricity grid SING system, signed a contract for the construction of the 2 MW photovoltaic plant El Águila with solar power company SunEdison on January 15.

The project, which is the fruit of a strategic partnership between E-Cl and the third largest global producer of boric acid Quiborax, will come online in northern Chile in the first half of this year, E-CL announced in a release.

The El Águila plant, which will annually generate around 5 GWh of electricity, will be built on a 5-hectare area near kilometre 57 of CH-11 international highway in Arica Province of northern Chile’s Arica and Parinacota Region. The total area of the solar plant will be around 5 hectares and its initial 2 MW capacity, which will supply Quiborax with power, can be subsequently expanded.

Meanwhile, Chile’s energy minister Jorge Bunster launched into operation the first photovoltaic plant in the country connected to the country’s largest electricity grid SIC on January 10.

The 1.2 MW Tambo Real solar plant that consists of 5,200 photovoltaic panels was built by Santiago-based engineering company Kaltemp and German renewable energy specialist juwi in the country’s Coquimbo region. "Solar energy is taking off in Chile and industry is pushing ahead with its development," said the minister at the launch.

Tambo Real occupies an area of 2.5 hectares close to the city of Vicuña, in Elqui province. The new solar plant is the third photovoltaic plant that has come online in the country. The two preceding plants include the 1 MW Calama 3, developed by Solarpack, which generates electricity for mining company Codelco, and the 1.4 MW La Huayca, developed by Seltec, that feeds power into the northern electricity grid SING.

In South America, juwi has been active with local subsidiaries in Chile since 2010 and in Uruguay since 2012.

The launch of this first SIC-connected photovoltaic plant comes as Chile’s renewable energy center (CER) announced that 3,107 MW of photovoltaic energy projects in the country have already received environmental approval but have yet to be built. A further 908 MW of projects are waiting for environmental qualification from authorities.