By: Jake Richardson
An 80 MW solar power plant will be built in Chile’s Antofagasta Region beginning in the first part of 2015. The Inti project is scheduled to be completed and come online about one year later. Greenwood Energy and Pacific Solar S.A. formed a partnership to construct the new plant. Greenwood will own and operate it. The site location will be the municipality of Maria Elena on 190 hectares of public property.
Electricity generated by it will be sold to the spot market. Solar power has been said to be in synch with the spot market because the period of peak production coincides with some points of peak demand. Merchant solar is typically financed by investors and sold into competitive markets.
In Chile some of the factors that make merchant solar attractive are a great abundance of sunlight, open space, high electricity prices and rising demand.
Perhaps another factor is the overall decline of solar power’s cost in the last six years. Financing a new solar power plant without subsidies then might have seemed very risky and even like a losing proposition. However, the big drop in solar power costs has changed the economics and mindset.
Not long ago, one of the looming questions about solar power concerned grid parity. For some reason, the notion that solar power plants must be constructed without government support to be cost competitive or valid had become embedded in many people’s minds. The factual counter to this view, of course, was simply that fossil fuels have and continue to receive government support, so why would solar power have to be free of it to be effective?
Some of these self-financed solar power plants are ‘there’, at grid parity, and so apparently the debate about them never being able to achieve it is over – even if the debate was biased and sort of misleading from the start.
It’s almost as if someone or something tried to create a different standard for solar power in order to make it seem too flawed to be taken seriously.
However, if ‘grid parity’ unsubsidized is the proof of merit, then it has been achieved in some cases. In fact the number of megawatts for this project and whether it is the largest or second largest merchant solar power plant is not the most important part of this situation – it’s the grid parity aspect.
Another one in Chile already exists that uses technology from SunPower, but it is slightly smaller.
Chile is one of the fastest growing solar markets in the world.