The Salvador Solar Plant has been completed in the Chilean Atacama Desert. It is one of the largest merchant solar power plants in the world. It has been estimated that Salvador will generate enough electricity each year to power about 70,000 households in Chile.
Image Credit: Etrion
The project was unsubsidized, which is remarkable because solar power is often criticized for needing government incentives. Fossil fuels that are subsidized do not receive such criticism, which is not fair at all to solar power. There clearly is a double standard that has been created to make solar power appear less viable.
Projects like the Salvador Solar Plant demonstrate that solar power can stand on its own and that they can also provide clean energy to the marketplace at competitive rates. Another advantage of solar power is that it is improving gradually, whereas fossil fuels do not appear to be. This trend means that solar power will very likely continue to decrease in cost and increase in energy capacity.
SunPower, the solar manufacturing company based in the U.S., not only provided the 160,000 solar panels for the new plant, it also designed and constructed it. Operations and maintenance will also come from SunPower. In a desert environment, dust is a concern because it can coat solar panels and decrease electricity production.
“PV Salvador showcases advanced SunPower technology that will deliver maximized, cost-competitive solar power production over the next 25 years or more.Together with Total, we are leading the market by delivering reliable, cost-effective clean power to Chile’s utility grid, positively impacting local businesses and people,” explained Jorg Heinemann, SunPower’s executive vice president, global power plants, customer operations and EPC.
Northern Chile has a very high solar radiation level, and much open space so it is an excellent location for solar power. In fact, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that this region’s electricity could be supplied by solar power, especially when energy storage solutions have been added to the mix.