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Solar PV Project Development in Chile

2 min read

Location: Chile
Duration: 2012 – present
Partner: First Solar
Carbon Standard: United Nations Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) (PoA 9251)

Project Partner: First Solar Energía Ltda.

First Solar, Inc. is the leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems. First Solar Energia Limitada implemented the Luz del Norte project with financing provided to First Solar, Inc. by OPIC and IFC.

www.firstsolar.com

Background

In 2004, Argentina began to steadily cut natural gas exports to its neighbor Chile, triggering a major energy crisis. Ten years later, a regasification plant (converting liquefied natural gas back to natural gas) located 1,400 km north of Santiago, was not enough to solve the energy problems in the north of the country, where water is scarce and where the mining industry is concentrated. In 2014 the country was facing a serious long-term energy shortage, largely caused by the expected growth in the country’s energy-intensive copper mining industry and the effect of a drought on hydroelectric production. Electricity prices had risen 20% compared with 2010 and the government was predicting a further 34% rise over the coming 10 years.

Solution

As a result, solar projects became a priority. In January 2016, Chile became the first Latin American country to reach 1GW of production.

Project Overview

  • The Luz del Norte project is the largest photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant in Latin America occupying 478 hectares of land located 58 km northeast of Copiapó, Chile.
  • The 141 megawatt (MW) alternating current (AC) project is powered by more than 1.7 million First Solar advanced thin film PV modules, producing enough solar energy to power 174,000 homes and displace the equivalent of more than 185,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.

Project Benefits

  • Establishes Chile as a leader in solar development
  • Diversifies Chile’s energy mix in support of the country’s renewable energy policies
  • Created up to 370 construction jobs and 10 ongoing operations and maintenance positions
  • Provided business opportunities in the Copiapó region including construction, environmental, transportation, food and hospitality services
  • Local vendors were trained and certified to match international standards and locally-produced construction materials were used
  • In addition, First Solar established a training program in partnership with Solar Energy International at Liceo Politécnico José Antonio Carvajal to prepare students to join the growing solar industry as skilled installers of PV technology
  • Uses no water to clean PV panels, protecting natural resources
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