The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, officially inaugurated the 60 MW Uyuni Photovoltaic Solar Plant on Saturday.
The project is located in the municipality of Uyuni, in southern Bolivia. It covers a surface area of 105 hectares, which could be extended to 180, and was leased for free by the Government of Potosí.
The contract for the construction of the plant, worth $62 million, was awarded to a consortium formed by Emias and Elecnor at the beginning of November 2016. The project was tendered by the local state-owned electricity company, Ende in March 2016.
It is the second large-scale solar project carried out under a tender process in Bolivia. Another project, the 50 MW Oruro Photovoltaic Solar Plant, was tendered in April of the same year, while its construction started this August.
As for the Uyuni project, it was originally scheduled to be completed in March, according to an announcement by Morales himself in November. “With this plant we will generate 50% of the energy demand of the department of Potosí, it will soon be finished, I congratulate the Governor, Mayor and the awarded company. Our goal is for Bolivia to be the Energy Heart of South America, exporting energy to the neighbors,” said Morales at the time.
The Bolivian government hopes to turn the country into the energy heart of South America, although it is hydropower, with an estimated potential of around 7 GW, which will play a leading role.
The Uyuni and Oruro solar plants are the only ones currently in operation, or in the construction phase, and no new bids have yet been announced for large-scale PV, or other renewable energy projects.
Bolivia has a renewable energy target for 2025 of just 183 MW, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Currently, its energy demand is covered by 2 GW of installed power generation capacity, which is represented by 60% of thermoelectric energy, and 40% of hydropower.
Overall, the share of access to electricity in the country remains one of the lowest in Latin America. According to the United Nations, only 71.5% of the population had electricity in 2014.
Bolivia is, however, one of the countries in the region with the highest levels of solar irradiation. According to the Solon Foundation, the country, which had just 5 MW of photovoltaic power installed at the end of 2016, has a global horizontal irradiation of 1,000 to 1,200 Kwh/m2-year.