Abengoa has officially started construction works on the photovoltaic plant that will form part of the Atacama 1 solar complex, located in the north of Chile (Comuna de María Elena, Second Region). This will be the largest solar platform in Latin America. The project is based in the middle of the Atacama Desert, the region with the highest level of solar radiation in the world. Atacama 1 will feature a PV plant with a capacity of 100 MW and the first solar thermal plant in Latin America, with 110 MW of installed capacity and 17.5 hours of thermal storage. The entire solar complex covers 1,000 hectares.
The photovoltaic plant will be the largest of its type in the Grand North region, with an installed capacity of 100 MW and 392,000 solar panels that capture energy from the sun to deliver it directly to the grid.
The solar thermal electric plant, in construction since 2014, will have 10,600 heliostats and the solar field will cover over 700 hectares. Heliostats concentrate solar radiation in a collector located at the top of a 250 metre-high tower. The sun’s radiation is used to heat molten salts that in turn create the steam required to drive a 110 MW turbine, which generates clean electricity. The PV plant will also feature a thermal storage system with molten salts that will deliver stable energy 24/7.
The complex will prevent the emission of around 870,000 tons of CO2 annually and thanks to the combination of both technologies will cover the energy demands of both homes and industry.
The PV plant is expected to start operation at the end of 2015 and the solar thermal plant in the second quarter of 2017.