100 MW-AC solar project to power the Santiago metro

Today SunPower, Total and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced a solar project that will supply 42% of the electricity used by the subway system in Santiago, Chile.

SunPower plans to begin construction on the Pelican solar plant near the border of the Coquimbo and Atacama Regions this year, and complete the plant by the end of 2017. The plant will supply an estimated 300 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually to the metro under a power purchase agreement.

SunPower will design and build the plant using its Oasis Power Block modular system. The company will additionally provide operations and maintenance services using its robotic cleaning solution, which it says will reduce water usage.

In addition to the Pelican solar project, the Santiago metro will also be powered by the new San Juan wind project, which will provide another 18% of the system’s electricity needs. Together, the two projects will meet 60% of the metro’s electricity demand for powering trains, lighting stations and other needs.

Investment in these two renewable energy projects will total be around US$500 million.

These projects will enter into service in 2018 and supply the metro for 15 years. During this time the remaining 40% of the system’s electricity will be supplied by Chilean electric company Chilectra. 2.5 million Chileans use the Santiago metro every day, according to President Bachelet.

“It is an example which hopefully we can extend, as quickly as possible, to other private and public companies, and certainly to our global energy mix as in our nation,” stated President Bachelet. The announcement was made during a visit to the National Stadium station, which is under construction.

With this initiative, Chile seeks to contribute to the CO2 reduction goals passed this last year in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

In Chile there are currently 3 GW-AC of non-conventional renewable energy plants, a definition which excludes large hydro, in operation. Of these, 1.1 GW-AC are PV projects.

An earlier version of this article appeared in Spanish on the pv magazine Latinoamérica website.