Skilled at the art of finding hotspots for solar installation sites, it’s no wonder so many solar energy companies are drawn to Chile’s Atacama Desert, a spot so hot and sunny it’s used to simulate missions to Mars.
Now it’s simply a matter of convincing mining companies in the area—the same mines that nearly killed 33 Chileans last year—that solar power is safer, more efficient and less expensive than fossil fuels.
The science is there to back them up. In fact, the Atacama Desert in Chile’s northern region isn’t just hot—it receives nearly twice the amount of sun that hits Las Vegas every year. In addition, it’s home to at least 15 large mines, as well as hundreds of smaller sites.
That’s why companies like Skyline Solar, Xstrata, Atacama Solar, Solarpack Corp. Tecnologica and Element Power, are all competing to put new installations in place.
Atacama Solar has plans for a $773 million, 250-megawatt solar farm which could be up and running as early as 2018.
Element Power, a company based in Portland, Oregon, has smaller scale plans, including five 30-megawatt projects.
Solarpack has already completed their 1-megawatt installation at a copper mine called Codelco. It’s expected to open this year.
If such projects go off without a hitch, mines throughout the area are expected to jump on board with solar installations of their own—and that’s good news for developers and miners alike.
Photo Credit: Secretaria de Comunicaciones via Flickr CC