World’s largest solar project destined for Chile’s Atacama

Project Salvador plans to turn the Atacama Desert’s arid plains into one of the largest sources of solar power on the planet.

The sweeping dry canyons and plains of Chile’s Atacama Desert make it not only a spectacular place to visit, but also an amazing resource for solar energy.

The latest endeavor hoping to tap into this immense renewable resource is called Project Salvador, and is set to be the world’s largest solar power project.

Led by Swiss energy company Etrion and France’s Total, the initiative will span 133 hectares and is expected to produce approximately 200 gigawatt-hours of solar electricity per year, enough to serve 60,000 Chileans.

“Project Salvador is an important step in the process of transforming the capabilities of solar power in the world. This merchant project confirms that solar energy is becoming competitive with other conventional energy sources,” said Philippe Boisseau, President of Marketing & Services and New Energies and a member of the Executive Committee of Total.

The executive added that he is excited about the possibilities that lie in the Atacama and Chile.

“Solar power is a compelling proposition in Chile due to the amount of solar irradiation received every day in the region,” Boisseau said. “We look forward to further developing our solar activities in the country.”

The 70 megawatt-peak (“MWp”) photovoltaic power plant, projected to cost US$200 million, will be financed by the Swiss and French companies as well as by Spain’s Solventus Energías Renovables and built by Total’s US based affiliate, SunPower Corporation (“SunPower”).

This is only the most recent in a long line of projects proposed, under construction, and operating in the Atacama region and Northern Chile. Spanish solar and wind company Ibereólica got the go-ahead earlier this year for a US$3.3 billion 400-megawatt solar project in the area.