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Colbún inaugurates first of 800MW energy storage projects, in Chile’s Atacama

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Utility Colbún has inaugurated a solar-plus-storage project with a 32MWh battery energy storage system in the Atacama region, the first of an 800MW deployment target.

The Diego de Almagro project is a 330-hectare site comprising 470,000 solar panels totalling 230MW of power and a 8MW/32MWh BESS allowing for four hours of full power discharge.

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Finland-headquartered energy technology company Wärtsilä was awarded the energy storage system integrator contract a year ago and provided its GridSolve Quantum utility-scale BESS product (pictured below) along with its GEMS Digital Energy Platform to manage and optimise the system with the solar PV.

The overall project totalled US$150 million of investment of which the BESS was US$11 million.

The project is Colbún’s first operational energy storage unit, the largest solar PV park in the Atacama region and also the “debut of this type of technology” there, the company claims.

Note however that the Atacama region only covers a portion of the Atacama desert, widely known as the sunniest place on earth, which is spread across the region of Antofagasta too. In fact, the first large-scale lithium-ion BESS deployed anywhere in the world is found there. AES’ ‘Los Andes’ 12MW/4MWh BESS was inaugurated in 2011 in Copiapo.

Colbún has plans to deploy 800MW of energy storage overall in Chile including a five-hour, 240MW/1,200MWh co-located unit it proposed for the northern region of Arica and Parinacota in August. That project is currently undergoing an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The firm plans to have 4,000MW of renewable capacity online by 2030, having moved away from a model of procuring renewable energy from other companies. Energy-Storage.news’ sister site PV Tech spoke to the firm’s CEO José Ignacio Escobar for a piece in the most recent edition of quarterly journal PV Tech Power.

“Today, being renewable or having green energy is not enough. We have to find ways for this investment in clean energy to be well done, with timely information and involvement of the communities, and developing productive chains that generate local value”, Escobar added in a press release announcing the Diego de Almagro project.

Chile recently passed a major piece of legislation to incentivise the deployment of stationary energy storage systems (ESS) by allowing standalone units to receive income on the country’s electricity market.

But even before that, a handful of huge energy storage projects have been announced this year, including Colbún’s, AES’ plans to convert a coal plant into 560MW of molten salt-based energy storage, Canadian Solar’s recent tender win to deploy solar-plus-storage with 1GWh of battery storage and 425MWh BESS order for Mitsubishi Power.

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