SunPower targets 1GW solar plants in Chile – ‘most attractive region on planet’

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Phenomenal sunshine and favourable policies take SunPower to Chile, where the US company plans to develop 1GW of PV farms in 5 years.

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US Solar giant SunPower, which recently bought the American solar assets of Australian renewables developer Infigen, has turned its attention to “one of the most attractive regions on the planet” for solar, revealing plans to spend as much as $1.5 billion on solar farms in Latin American country, Chile.

The California-based company wants to develop 1GW of solar farms in Chile in five years, according to CEO Tom Werner, who describes the country as a strategic market, with “phenomenal sunshine” and a favourable economic and policy environment, including new rules for utility-scale solar auctions.

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Indeed, Chile has a target of 20 per cent of renewables generation by 2025 and, under President Michelle Bachelet, has introduced a system allowing wind and solar electricity generators to sell their power in specific time-blocks, increasing their ability to compete with traditional power plants.

This, alone, has led to Chile installing a forecast record amount of new installed renewable capacity of 1.1GW in 2015, including 680MW from solar PV plants, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“Now growth will come from auctions,” said Adam James, solar analyst for Latin America at GTM Research. “Chile alone will be responsible for half of new solar installations in Latin America this year.”

According to Werner, the company will participate in Chile’s next energy auction, for which participants ca

BRLASFall2010-AtacamaSolarPanels_chilerenovablesn submit bids until April 2016, with winners to be announced the following month.

SunPower, which built the 70MW Salvador solar farm in Chile’s Atacama region  will begin construction on a 100MW project in the country’s central region at the end of the year, aimed at serving mining companies.

For new installations, the company will focus on long-term power purchase agreements with distributors, according to Nam Nguyen, SunPower’s vice president of global power plants. Contracting directly with mining companies will also drive growth, while Chile’s spot market will have less activity in the next few years, she said.

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