The first two blocks of First Solar, Inc.’s Luz del Norte solar project have been connected to the Chilean central grid, the company announced today. The interconnect includes approximately half of the project’s total 141 megawatt (MW) capacity.
“This exciting milestone is proof of how utility-scale solar is a viable energy alternative for Chile right now,” said Cristian Sjogren, First Solar’s Chile country manager. “Luz del Norte harnesses one of the region’s richest resources, allowing Chile to reduce dependence on fossil-based fuels and meet renewable energy targets set by the national Energy Agenda.” Sjogren pointed out that the project is also an example of how the global energy transition towards clean renewable energy alternatives is taking place in Latin America.
Construction of the Luz del Norte power plant, located 58 kilometers north of the city of Copiapó, began in August 2014 and is expected to enter full commercial operation by January 2016. At that time, it will be the largest solar plant in Latin America, generating enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 174,000 homes, avoiding over 185,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year. First Solar is the developer and owner of Luz del Norte. First Solar is actively seeking a permanent off-taker of power generated by the project, which is currently being sold on the open market.
“We are proud to leverage our industry-leading expertise in project development, high energy yield PV technology, grid integration and energy asset management to create a truly remarkable renewable energy asset for Chile,” said Joe Kishkill, First Solar’s President, International. “First Solar is a strong, reliable technology partner, and we are eager to work with other solar developers with projects in Chile. There is great opportunity to continue solar development at the scale of Luz del Norte.”
Sjogren said First Solar’s presence in Chile has expanded this year, with a permanent office in Santiago that includes more than 30 employees supporting more than 1GW of regional solar development projects and partnership opportunities. “First Solar is positioned to offer comprehensive PV energy solutions to meet the needs of our customers from high efficiency modules and mounting solutions to turnkey utility solar solutions. We believe strong, mutually beneficial partnerships are critical to the continued growth of a reliable, sustainable solar energy market,” Sjogren said. “Projects like Luz del Norte represent only the beginning of what is to come of solar energy in this region. First Solar is committed to taking energy forward in Chile.”
Sjogren noted that the company has also worked to be an active member of the communities in which it is doing business. Last year, First Solar developed and funded a special job training program in Copiapó intended to help young people obtain technical skills for careers in renewable energy. And following the storms and flooding that occurred last March in the Atacama region, First Solar’s Luz del Norte team arranged for a US$50,000 donation directed towards rebuilding damaged infrastructure and service in the region. Through Desafio Levantemos Chile, First Solar’s donation was focused on providing assistance to the town of Diego de Almagro, one of the most heavily damaged communities.
Upon completion, Luz del Norte will generate power using 1.7 million of First Solar’s high energy yield thin film photovoltaic modules. First Solar’s advanced PV modules have set the industry benchmark with over 10GW installed worldwide and having recently achieved a world record 18.6% thin film module conversion efficiency, demonstrating a record module that is more efficient than the best multi-crystalline module recorded. This achievement reinforces confidence in First Solar’s ability to deliver sustained product improvements consistent with its long-term technology roadmap. With both a superior temperature coefficient and superior spectral response, First Solar’s PV technology has been independently certified for reliable performance in high temperature, high humidity, extreme desert, and coastal environments.
ST Staff Writers
This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.