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24/7 solar-plus-pumped storage plant could join Chile’s rapidly growing renewable efforts

Chilean authorities have received plans for an ambitious 600MW PV plant project which could be connected to a 300MW pumped hydro energy storage plant, from developer Valhalla Energy.

The plant’s combined technologies could allow the electricity generated to be used 24 hours a day, although there are still some decisions to be made on the overall scope of the project.

Earmarked for the northern Tarapaca region, the project could require as many as 600 workers on site, according to plans submitted to Chile’s environmental assessment service (Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental, SEIA).

The project will require the building of substations and some 18 kilometres of transmission wires in addition to the photovoltaic plant and the “Mirror of Tarapaca”, as Valhalla has named the seawater pumped hydro facility.

Electricity from the plant will be used in different ways, dependent on the time of use and market conditions. In other words, power generated will either go into the Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande (SING) electricity network, assist the pumping of the Mirror of Tarapaca, be stored or used for desalination for drinking water.

According to a posting by Valhalla Energy on the company’s own Facebook page, the project will require an investment of approximately US$1 billion.

The project could be the latest high profile contribution to Chile’s rapidly growing efforts in large-scale solar. After a period of uncertainty, the country now boasts a significant PV pipeline and at the beginning of the year, SunEdison connected the world's largest merchant PV plant to date in the country. Latin America for the most part appears to be one of the emerging markets to watch in PV but this and projects such as inverter maker SMA's ongoing plan to install the world's largest diesel-solar hybrid power station with battery storage in neighbouring Bolivia also make it a region to watch for energy storage. 

Valhalla's 'Mirror of Tarapaca' (in Spanish). Image: Valhalla Energy facebook page.

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