In South America, a continent rich in abundant natural resources yet beset by civil and economic woes, renewable energy has the potential to help lift industrial capacity and provide much need employment.
Solar energy development company, Solarpack, and Codelco (Corporacion Nacional del Cobre de Chile) have teamed up to build the first utility scale solar farm in South America.
The project involves the construction and operation of a photovoltaic plant of 1 MW of installed capacity (equivalent to the consumption of 5,000 households), which will supply electricity to Chuquicamata copper mine in northern Chile.
Solar pack says it will be the first solar panel-based installation in the world that is built without any subsidies to support it. This is a testament to the success of global solar energy uptake and its subsequent reduction in price. Codelco will purchase electricity generated by the solar plant.
The plant will occupy an area of 6.25 hectares. The 4080 solar modules will be mounted on a high precision solar tracking system to follow the path of the sun and increase electricity production.
It’s understood the Solarpack/Coldelco northern Chile solar farm will cut emissions by 1,680 tonnes of CO2 a year.
A solar powered energy source would provide much-needed consistency of power supply says Solarpack, “especially in northern Chile, where we are at a higher radiation area of the world (nearly 2,500 kwh/m2/year). As a result, the plant will generate 2.69 GWh / year of electricity. This solar power plant will be the world’s most productive to date, with a plant factor of 31%.”
The Solarpack/Codelco joint solar farm will begin operations within a year, and is expected to be an historic milestone, not only for Chile but for all of South America, breaking new ground on the first industrial-scale photovoltaic plant on the continent and making solar energy competitive with other renewable energy sources such as wind power.