Chile on track for 6 GW of solar projects

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Chile has seen a rapid rise in the development of new solar power projects in recent months. The country’s Environmental Evaluation Service (SEA) has already approved 4 GW of new projects and is currently reviewing an additional 2.2 GW, according to a report by published on June 19 by Chile’s Center for Renewable Energy.

While a large number of major projects are set go online in the coming months, Chile’s capacity from operational facilities currently totals only 3.5 MW. However, solar plants with a total capacity of 69 MW are currently under construction and the SEA has approved an additional 4 GW of projects which have yet to be built. A further 2.2 GW are under review.

Solar plants currently connected to the grid in Chile only account for 3.5 MW and include the 1.4 MW La Huayca facility in the northern region of Tarapacá, which went online in October.

While solar power capacity has remained relatively unchanged in the past six months, the number of projects that have applied for approval with the SEA has increased dramatically and had already reached 4 GW by January.

In May alone the SEA received nine projects totaling 649 MW and in the same month the regulator approved seven projects with a total capacity of 764 MW, according to the report.

Chile has also seen the construction of projects accelerate in recent months. In January there were only 1.3 MW under construction. As of June, a total of 69 MW of solar plants are currently being built, including Sky Solar’s 18 MW project in Pampa Dos Cruces, which began construction in March and has since been enlarged to 33 MW.

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The SEA recently approved the 52 MW Parque PV Diego de Almagro project in the northern Atacama region municipality of Diego de Almagro, which is being developed by local group Emelda SA.

Some of the latest projects to come under review by the SEA include the 260 MW Alpha Solar project from Chilean firm Pleiades SA and the 90 MW Solar Pampa Norte plant, which is being developed by Spanish group Ingenostrum.

Much of Chile’s planned solar power is targeted at energy intensive mining companies operating in the northern region of the country and a few project developers have signed power purchase agreements (PPA) with mining operators.

In October, the SEA approved two large-scale projects with a combined capacity of 183 MW, both located in the Atacama region: the 162 MW Diego del Almagro plant, a $420 million project backed by Andes Mainstream Spa, a Chilean subsidiary of U.S. group Mainstream Renewable Power, and the 21 MW Canto del Agua plant, a $90 million facility developed by Santiago-based Canto del Agua Spa, part of Spain’s Abantia.

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