Latin America will be a key emerging market for solar development over the next few years, and no country in the region has a larger planned pipeline than Chile. The country’s northern Atacama Desert is an ideal location for utility-scale solar for a number of reasons. Most notably, it has one of the highest levels of solar irradiation in the world and is home to a large proportion of Chile’s growing mining industry. With limited electricity generating resources and a highly volatile spot market, solar is becoming an increasingly competitive solution despite the lack of subsidies.
In light of the growing demand for new generation, Chile’s National Energy Strategy estimates that 8,000 megawatts of additional capacity needs to come on-line by 2020. Furthermore, with a 10 percent renewable energy requirement by 2024, local companies as well as large international developers are eager to cash in on what seems to be a likely solar boom. Up to this point, however, very little solar been connected to the grid. A number of smaller facilities were brought on-line this year, including a 1-megawatt project developed by Solarpack to power a mine owned by Codelco and a 1.4-megawatt plant developed by saferay.Source: GTM Research
Unlike neighboring markets such as Brazil, which is dominated by local players, or Argentina, which has an unstable government, Chile has attracted significant attention from foreign developers, EPC providers, and investors. Of the more than 4 gigawatts of Chilean projects currently tracked by GTM Research, less than one-third of this capacity has been proposed by domestic companies. One explanation for this trend is the simple fact that as an emerging market, Chile lacks established solar firms. Of the top developers listed in Figure 1, only Poch Corporation is Chilean. The company’s extensive experience, both as a hydroelectric developer and heavy construction firm, should allow it to transition into solar with relative ease. Other Chilean firms that have applied for environmental permitting include startups such as Solar Chile and Atacama Solar. Independent power producers, such as AES Gener, have also thrown their hat in the solar ring in order to comply with renewable energy generation requirements.
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