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First utility size solar PV plant approved in South America

Calama is located in northern Chile.  The city is located at the center of this image.
Calama is located in northern Chile. The city is located at the center of this image.
Author: RAVL

COREMA, the regional environmental regulator for Antofagasta, northern Chile, just approved the first utility size photovoltaic plant in that country and the first in South America.

The name of the project is “Planta Solar Fotovoltaica Calama Solar 1, II Region”. The plant will be built in an important mining province at 3.5 km northeast of the city of Calama by the road that connects to Chiu-Chiu. Chile has one of the best sites in the world for solar energy in the northern part of the country. It will be built on grounds given in concession by the Chilean State with an extension of 65 hectares of land.

The approved project includes construction, installation, operation and maintenance of the solar plant provided by Solarpack. The start of construction is expected for this year.  The plant will have 133,056 solar panels installed on 5,544 trackers. Each tracker will hold 24 solar panels. The trackers will rotate to follow the sun to maximize output. The plant will provide 9MW of electricity to the grid. The minimum estimated life span of the plant is 25 to 35 years.

Estimated project cost is $40M. According to PortalMinero, the plant will be the first in the world using Grid Parity for its financing; i.e., no subsidies will be used for its connection to the grid. It will be self financed through company equity and a Chilean bank.

Solarpack Corporación Tecnológica is a Spanish solar firm with offices in Chile since 2008 that specializes in clean energy development, investment, consulting and services. The company expects to implement five other PV plants in the country representing about $240M in revenues.

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