Transmission line for north Chile approved

CHILE: Environment regulators have approved a new 753km power line which promises to open up northern Chile's huge potential for solar and wind energy

The new grid will help Chile to grow wind installed capacity beyond the current rate of almost 1GW

The low voltage 2x500kV grid running from the city of Copiapo to the capital Santiago will double transmission capacity between the north’s sundrenched Atacama Desert and blustery coasts and the main population in the center.

The $1 billion project is being developed by Colombian infrastructure firm ISA and is expected to be completed in late 2017.

Currently a single 500kV line links the northern end of Chile’s central grid with the rest of the country, meaning that some wind projects have not been built due to a lack of grid capacity.

Meanwhile, a glut of photovoltaic solar capacity have pushed daytime power prices down to zero, putting new projects under considerable financial strain.

Work is already underway on a line to link Copiapo with the SING grid which supplies to the far-north of Chile.

But ISA has faced opposition from municipalities concerned by the line’s impact on the landscape.

"Strengthening the transmission system is fundamental to incorporating wind energy into Chile’s electricity supplies," Sergio del Campo, CEO of Aela Energia, told Windpower Monthly.

Aela is a joint venture between investment Actis and Ireland’s Mainstream Renewables, which is building a 150MW wind farm in northern Chile.