On June 6, 2014, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile inaugurated one of the largest photovoltaic (PV) power plants constructed to date, the Amanecer Solar CAP plant. The solar farm stretches 250 acres across the Atacama Desert, resting on South America’s Pacific coast.

The PV plant, built by technology provider SunEdison, cost U.S. $250 million and was constructed over a period of six months. 310,000 solar panels take in solar radiation, converting the sunlight into clean energy capable of powering 125,000 Chilean households. Amanecer is able to generate close to 100 megawatts, making it the largest solar power plant in Latin America.

Jose Perez, regional President of SunEdison, declared that Amanecer “is just the starting point. We are firmly committed to the future of clean energy production and the development of the energy industry in Chile.” Perez is happy to see Chile diversifying its energy matrix and reducing energy costs through the new PV project.

The Amanecer plant is good news for Chileans. The clean energy produced will be pumped into the country’s Central Interconnected System, which is expected to cause a drop in prices of grid electricity. Solar energy is also much more sustainable than other forms of energy. It is completely renewable. Estimates hold that the plant will introduce 270 GWh (gigawatt hours) of clean energy into Chile’s energy apparatus. The same energy output via diesel would demand 71 million liters of fuel.

The Amanecer Solar CAP project is part of a larger renewable energy strategy being pursued by the Bachelet administration. Currently Chile relies heavily on fossil fuels for its energy, including gas, coal and oil, but Chile hopes that by 2025 at least 20 percent of its power will be generated by renewable energy sources. Bachelet’s short term goal is to see 45 percent of new power ventures being rooted in clean energy from 2014 to 2015. The Amanecer project alone has the potential to contribute 10 percent of Chile’s 2014 renewable energy goal.

The Atacama Desert provides a perfect environment for the development of solar energy ventures. In fact, Amanecer is not the only solar project in the area. It is joining the company of the existing 50.7 megawatt San José solar farm. Conditions in Chile are conducive to green energy development, and the government is doing well to embrace this reality. The benefits of investment in clean energy for Chile include lower energy prices, decreased financial burden on people living in poverty, and reduced pollution levels. Cleaner air and fuller pockets represent a policy everyone should feel excited about standing behind.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: BN AmericasEnergy Matters, Renews