SANTIAGO – Acciona Energia, the energy division of Spanish multinational conglomerate Acciona Group, said Thursday it would invest $343 million to build a photovoltaic plant in Chile’s Atacama Desert, a facility that will be the largest of its kind in Latin America and one of the 10 biggest worldwide.
The El Romero Solar plant in Atacama’s northern region will have a maximum capacity of 247 megawatts (MWp) – 196 MW rated power – and will be equipped with more than 777,000 solar modules that cover an area of 280 hectares (690 acres), the company said in a statement.
Construction will begin soon and the plant is scheduled to start operating in mid-2017 and produce around 505 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually, equivalent to the consumption of 245,000 Chilean homes.
El Romero Solar will enable Acciona to cover much of its commitment to supply 600 GWh of power from renewable sources to distribution concession holders serving Chile’s main grid from 2018 onward.
Once in operation, the photovoltaic plant will avoid the emission of some 485,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year from coal-fired power stations.
“The start of construction work on El Romero Solar is a very significant milestone, one that will enable us to respond to our commitment to supply renewables-based power in Chile and strengthen our role in the country’s energy sector,” Acciona Energia CEO Rafael Mateo was quoted as saying in the statement.
The Atacama Desert, one of the most arid places on Earth, has a high level of solar radiation and very clean air.
El Romero Solar will be the second asset owned by Acciona Energia in Chile after the 45 MW Punta Palmeras wind farm, which is located in the northern region of Coquimbo and was inaugurated in January by President Michelle Bachelet.