Chile inaugurates Latin America's largest PV plant

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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Friday inaugurated the largest PV power plant so far in operation in Latin America.

Located in Chile’s Copiapo municipality, the $250 million Amanecer Solar CAP plant has 100 MW of total installed capacity — the amount of energy consumed each year by approximately 125,000 Chilean homes, or equivalent to 10% of the renewable energy generation capacity goal established by the Chilean government for 2014.

SunEdison developed, built and interconnected the installation under an offtake agreement with Chilean mining and steel giant CAP Group.

Located 37 kilometers from Copiapo in the Atacama Desert, the plant has more than 310,000 PV modules spread over 250 acres (101 hectares). Energy produced by the Amanecer Solar CAP plant is being injected into Chile’s Central Interconnected System, lowering the net cost of grid electricity.

CAP Group President Roberto de Andraca B. said the plant would generate the equivalent of 15% of the group’s energy demand.

SunEdison estimates that in its first year of operation, the plant will inject 270 gigawatt hours of energy into the system. (The same amount of energy using diesel would require more than 71 million liters of fuel, SunEdison points out.)

"This project has changed the course of renewable energy development not only in Chile and Latin America, but throughout the world," said SunEdison President and CEO Ahmad Chatila. "Amanecer Solar CAP has become a benchmark for SunEdison in how to develop photovoltaic solar energy on an international level."

Jose Perez, SunEdison’s president for Europe, Africa and Latin America, added: "This plant demonstrates that photovoltaic solar energy is an ideal way of diversifying the energy matrix in Chile, reducing costs and contributing towards meeting the demand for clean and sustainable energy. SunEdison has now interconnected 150 MW in the Atacama Desert – the 100 MW Amanecer Solar CAP plant plus a 50 MW power plant in San Andres – and this is just the starting point."

CAP Group General Manager Fernando Reitich added that the Amanecer Solar CAP plant was "a concrete example" of the company’s strategy to use technologies and practices that are compatible with the environment and neighboring communities. "We believe that this style of mining is part of a business vision that allows for the development of our present and future activities," Reitich added.