Enel Latin America plans huge solar power projects in Chile

Subsidiary of Italian energy giant submits first applications for solar parks in northern Chile, with three projects totalling 400 MW.

Enel Latin America has not been shy with its first round of solar project applications in Chile. The energy company has drawn up plans for three solar parks in Antofagasta that will require a total of US$ 865 million of development in the region.

The energy company already has an installed capacity of 5,646 MW in Chile provided by other energy sources, and the company’s first solar project in the country will add a further 400 MW. To put this into context, Chile’s current solar energy generation is 9 MW.

Chile currently generates 873 MW or 4.9 percent of its energy through non-conventional sources, so Enel’s projects alone would increase total non-conventional energy generation in the country by just under 50 percent.

Proposals for the three photovoltaic parks, known as Sol de Lila, Valle del Sol and Lalackama, are currently with the government’s environmental evaluation service (SEA) awaiting approval.

The US$ 285 million Sol de Lila park will have 408,114  polycrystalline photovoltaic solar panels over 278 hectares; Valle del Sol will cost US$ 330 million for 477,708  polycrystalline photovoltaic solar panels over 310 hectares; and Lalackma will cost US$ 250 million for 430,416 fixed photovoltaic  solar panels over 192 hectares.

Of the Sol de Lila park alone, the company said in its Environmental Impact Statement: «The project will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as particulate matter, thereby reducing carbon footprint indices by an approximate decrease in the emission of 122,549 tonnes of CO2 per year.»

Energy from the Sol de Lila and Valle del Sol parks will be sold to the Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande (SING) energy grid that serves the northern mining regions. Energy from Lalackma will be sold to the Sistema Interconectado Central (SIC) grid, Chile’s central electricity grid that serves 93 percent of the population.

The parks would represent a step forward in Chile’s efforts to both diversify its energy matrix, and to increase regionally specific power generation and consumption.

As solar technology becomes more advanced and affordable, energy companies around the world are becoming increasingly eager to utilize northern Chile’s potential for solar energy. Per square foot, the Atacama desert has the highest capacity for solar radiation in the world – more so than the Sahara desert, Arabian desert, or Australia’s Great Sandy desert.