Mexican president inaugurates one of Latin America's largest solar farms

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The project is part of the Latin American country’s move towards having 35% of its energy come from clean sources by 2024. In supplying power to Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), Mexico’s national grid, under a two-decade PPA, it will quadruple the installed solar capacity in the country.

Gauss Energia was the developer of Aura Solar I. Hector Olea, its president and CEO, said, “Aura Solar is an important platform to encourage the installation of more solar facilities in Mexico. We are confident that this will trigger a new solar industry in the country.”

The site has an operational life of three decades and has been built with an upfront investment of $100 million, three-quarters of which came through debt financing via the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Mexico’s Nacional Financiera. Technological backing for the programme has come from Martifer. The IFC also contributed financial structuring to the project. An additional loan of $10 million was provided by Nacional Financiera as a separate value added tax facility.

Writing in The Latin American Energy Review last year, Olea spoke in-depth about the economics of Aura Solar. There, he said, “Direct government subsidies such as feed-in tariffs are not available for the project, nor are required for sustaining its profitability. Instead, Aura Solar operates under the Small Production regulatory approach, in which Mexican regulation requires CFE to buy all power produced by the project under a PPA contract. However, the contract does not specify a price – not even a floor– and revenue volatility is expected. Even with this backdrop, Aura Solar operates on market terms for its operation and profitability. Energy payments to the project under the Small Production regime are 98% of CFE’s marginal cost of generation in the interconnection node of the facility at La Paz.”

Aura Solar I is part of the ongoing Aura Solar Initiative. The La Paz, Baja California Sur-based plant is built on 100 hectares of land, has 131,800 one-axis tracked polycrystalline modules, and has been in operation since September. It was recently one of three recipients of the Infrastructure 360º Awards awarded by Inter-American Development Bank and is the largest solar plant in Latin America.