First Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant in Latin America

The high-temperature demonstration tower plant Eureka on the Solúcar platform in Spain. (Photo: Abengoa)
The high-temperature demonstration tower plant Eureka on the Solúcar platform in Spain. (Photo: Abengoa)

After Abengoa won the first tender for a CSP plant in Chile in January 2014, the Spanish company now builds a 110 MW tower plant, which uses molten salt as working fluid and for energy storage. The price offered by Abengoa was the second highest of all the awarded offers: 114.82 US$/MWh.

With the new CSP plant, the Spanish company wants to provide 950 GWh per year to the Chilean electricity grids. The project is part of Chile’s renewable energy programme, which aims to reach the country’s target of producing 20 % of its electricity with renewables by 2025. The 950 GWh Abengoa’s plant is going to produce are part of a 13,000 GWh/year tender. Additionally, the government decided that 45 % of all capacity installed between 2014 and 2025 should be renewable energy.

One of the reasons for this plan is Chile’s dependency on energy imports, which account for 60 % of its primary energy demand. Moreover, the mining industry in the North of the country is one of the driving forces of Chile’s economic growth. At the moment this sector uses about 80 % of Chile’s electricity, which comes mainly from conventional sources.

The CSP plant, which is the first commercial project for Abengoa with the molten salt technology, will produce electricity for 24 hours a day. This is due to Abengoas design, which enables the plant to generate electricity for up to 17.5 hours without solar radiation, using the stored heat. It will also be the first solar thermal plant for direct electricity production in South America.

The CEO of Abengoa, Manuel Sánchez Ortega said: “Winning a power supply tender with solar-thermal and photovoltaic plants, competing against conventional power generation, is an important milestone that demonstrates the success of our technology work to provide clean energy at competitive and predictable prices over decades.”

The plant will be subject to the Right of First Offer (ROFO) agreement Abengoa signed with the total return company Abengoa Yield. As part of the tender, the project will receive funding from various sites. In addition to subsidies from the Chilean government, the European Union will invest € 15 million from the Latin America Investment Facility, while the German KfW bank’s funding has a volume of € 100 million. Furthermore, the project will receive financing from the Inter-American Development Bank.

The new CSP project will be located in the Atacama Desert in Antofagasta region, Northern Chile. This region has one of the highest solar irradiation worldwide. The plant is scheduled to start operation on January 1st 2019 and continue its power production for 15 years, until December 31st 2033.

The solar thermal tower technology uses a series of mirrors, which track the sun horizontally and vertically and concentrate the solar radiation onto a receiver at the top of a tower. There, the heat is transferred to the molten salt, which can then either be stored or used to transfer the heat via a heat exchanger to a water current. This creates steam, which powers a turbine.

Tanja Peschel