Chile: Finance approved for First Solar’s 141 MW Luz del Norte power plant

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With high levels of irradiation, Chile’s Atacama Desert is ideal for PV. Direct normal irradiation measures are up to 3,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per square meter, around three times as high as most of Germany. PV developers have been working to realize projects in the region, which are largely free of FITs and subsidies and therefore truly competitive solar installations.

U.S.-based thin film manufacturer has announced that it has managed to finance the vast 141 MW Luz del Norte solar power plant in the Atacama Desert. The financing will be provided by the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and IFC – which is a member of the World Bank Group.

OPIC will provide a loan of $230 million for the project with the IFC putting up $60 million.

The Luz del Norte project will feed Chile’s Central Interconnected grid. The closest city to the construction site is Copiapo.

"The Latin American region has a growing need for innovative and efficient energy solutions right now," said Tim Rebhorn, senior vice president, Americas for First Solar. "This investment support from OPIC and IFC is instrumental in bringing the project in Chile to life."

The Chilean Renewable Energy Center, at the Ministry of Energy, reports that as of the end of May, installed solar capacity was 184 MW with a further 163 MW of PV power plants under construction. SunEdison has completed the 100 MW Amanecer plant in the country. SunPower is currently building the 70 MW Salvador plant.

"Chile is a global leader in developing solar resources as a low cost element of energy supply," said Bernard Sheahan, IFC global head of infrastructure. "This engagement with Luz del Norte and First Solar exemplifies IFC’s efforts to support cutting edge transactions in emerging markets’ infrastructure."

First Solar reports that it has been working with the Chilean government and regional authorities to develop the Luz del Norte project.

"Forming strong, mutually beneficial partnerships with invested constituents is the only way to build a solid foundation for long-term success in this region, and that’s what we are working toward," said First Solar’s Americas head Rebhorn.

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