More than 2 GW-AC of solar PV under construction in Chile

On Tuesday, Chile’s Center for Renewable Energy (CER) published its August report (in Spanish), which shows ongoing, rapid growth in Latin America’s largest solar market.

Chiefly, CER figures show 2.09 GW-AC of solar PV currently under construction, representing 88% of the capacity of “non-conventional” renewable energy (ERNC) being built. ERNC is a term used in Chile that explicitly excludes large hydroelectric plants.

Additionally, CER reports that concentrating solar power (CSP) makes up 4% of the 2.378 GW-AC of ERNC being built. Abengoa officially began construction of Latin America’s first commercial-scale CSP project during July 2014, the 110 MW-DC Cerro Dominador in Northern Chile.

GTM Research estimates the amount of PV under construction at only 2.1 GW-DC (1.6 GW-AC), however Senior Solar Analyst Adam James notes that his company’s criteria for classifying projects involves additional verification. He estimates that Chile will install an unprecedented 1.1 GW-DC of solar PV over the course of 2015, making it the seventh-largest PV market globally.

"Market growth in 2015 is coming from a range of sources, with solar projects competitive in the merchant electricity market, in the bilateral contract market with commercial consumers, and in the government’s tender processes," notes James.

James expects Chile’s market to decline in 2016, citing "broader electricity market conditions." However, he also expects solar to feature prominently in government auctions.

According to CER, new renewable energy capacity may already be bringing down costs. The agency’s report finds a decline both annually and month-over-month in costs on both the SIC and Northern Grid (SING).

Overall, CER estimates that ERNC represented 10% of the nation’s electricity generation in July, with PV representing 1.5% of overall power produced. In June, ERNC produced more than double the amount of electricity required under law. And when all of the PV and CSP currently under construction is completed, these figures will be much higher.

Update: This article was updated at 15:00 EST on August 18 to feature a quote from GTM Research. It was also revised to include the company’s most recent market estimates for Chile.