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28 October 2015

First Solar connects Luz del Norte to Chilean central grid

First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA, which makes thin-film photovoltaic modules based on cadmium telluride (CdTe) as well as providing engineering, procurement & construction (EPC) services, says that the first two blocks of its Luz del Norte solar project have been connected to the Chilean central grid. The interconnect includes about half of the project's total 141MW capacity.

The milestone is "proof of how utility-scale solar is a viable energy alternative for Chile right now," says First Solar's Chile country manager Cristian Sjogren. "Luz del Norte harnesses one of the region's richest resources, allowing Chile to reduce dependence on fossil-based fuels and meet renewable energy targets set by the national Energy Agenda," he adds. Sjogren pointed out that the project is also an example of how the global energy transition towards clean renewable energy alternatives is taking place in Latin America.

Construction of the Luz del Norte power plant, located 58km north of the city of Copiapó, began in August 2014 and is expected to enter full commercial operation by January 2016. At that time, it will be the largest solar plant in Latin America, generating enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 174,000 homes (avoiding over 185,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year). As the developer and owner of Luz del Norte, First Solar is actively seeking a permanent off-taker of power generated by the project, which is currently being sold on the open market.

"We are eager to work with other solar developers with projects in Chile," says Joe Kishkill, First Solar's president, International. "There is great opportunity to continue solar development at the scale of Luz del Norte." 

Sjogren said First Solar's presence in Chile has expanded this year, with a permanent office in Santiago that includes over 30 employees supporting more than 1GW of regional solar development projects and partnership opportunities. "First Solar is positioned to offer comprehensive PV energy solutions to meet the needs of our customers from high-efficiency modules and mounting solutions to turnkey utility solar solutions," says Sjogren. "Strong, mutually beneficial partnerships are critical to the continued growth of a reliable, sustainable solar energy market," he believes. "Projects like Luz del Norte represent only the beginning of what is to come of solar energy in this region." 

Sjogren notes that First Solar has also worked to be an active member of the communities in which it is doing business. Last year, the firm developed and funded a job training program in Copiapó intended to help young people obtain technical skills for careers in renewable energy. Also, following the storms and flooding that occurred last March in the Atacama region, First Solar's Luz del Norte team arranged for a US$50,000 donation directed towards rebuilding damaged infrastructure and service in the region. Through Desafio Levantemos Chile, the donation was focused on providing assistance to the town of Diego de Almagro, one of the most heavily damaged communities.

Upon completion, Luz del Norte will generate power using 1.7 million of First Solar's high-energy-yield thin-film photovoltaic modules. The firm's PV modules have set the industry benchmark with over 10GW installed worldwide and have recently achieved a record energy conversion efficiency of 18.6% for thin-film modules (more efficient than the best multi-crystalline module). First Solar says that, with both a superior temperature coefficient and superior spectral response, its PV technology has been independently certified for reliable performance in high temperature, high humidity, extreme desert, and coastal environments.

See related items:

First Solar installs inaugural panel at South America's largest PV project, in Chile's Atacama region

Tags: First Solar Thin-film photovoltaic CdTe

Visit: www.firstsolar.com

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