Chile installs more than 1 GW-AC of PV and exports solar electricity

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Chile is the first nation in Latin America to reach 1 gigawatt (GW) of installed solar PV. As of January, the capacity of operational PV plants stood at 1.013 GW-AC with another 165 MW expected to be installed in the next month, according to data from the nation’s National Center for Innovation and Promotion of Sustainable Energy (CIFES). This includes projects in commercial operation and in the testing stage.

At the same time that Chile is reporting a considerable increase in the capacity of installed solar PV, the interconnection to Argentina in the north of the nation is returning to operation. Last week the operator of Chile’s Northern Grid (SING) announced the beginning of electricity exports to Argentina across a transmission line which had been inactive for many years.

Chilean Energy Minister Máximo Pacheco celebrated the re-activation of this interconnection. According to local press, he state that “the North of Chile is mining, fishing and now the export of solar energy”.

The larger part of PV projects realized to date in Chile have been located in the north of the nation, where solar irradiation is very strong and an important mining industry exists.

Some of the projects in operation have signed power contracts with mining companies. However, other projects are selling electricity on the spot market,where prices have fallen significantly in the last year, and other projects are selling electricity under power contracts awarded in electricity distribution company auctions.

The next electricity distribution company auction was announced at the beginning of this year however thee schedule of the auction has still not been published.

Additionally, PV projects in construction have reached 2.195 GW in Chile. These projects are expected to be put in operation between February of this year and December 2017. Forecasts suggest that the large part of solar projects under construction, around 2 GW, will be put into service this year.

The list of PV projects continues to grow. In January, 8 PV projects entered into environmental evaluation, which is one of the initial steps in project development in Chile. Most of these have a capacity of 200 MW. Along with this, around 15 GW of PV projects had received environmental approval or were being considered for approval as of January.

Although it has not yet been reported by CIFES, it has been about two weeks since two large hybrid solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) projects by Andes Green Energy have entered the process to receive environmental approval. These two projects together represent an investment of roughly US$11 billion.

This article was translated by Christian Roselund. For the original in Spanish, please see the pv magazine Latinoamérica website.

Correction: This article was updated at 4 PM EST on February 18 to specify that the capacities are in alternating current (AC), as CIFES published capacity figures in AC.