SunEdison Inc., a provider of solar energy services, and copper producer Antofagasta Minerals S.A. announced that they have reached an agreement for the long-term sale of power to Antofagasta's Los Pelambres copper-molybdenum mine. Under the agreement SunEdison will supply power produced by the Javiera solar photovoltaic project, with a capacity of 69.5 megawatts DC, for operations at Los Pelambres.
Los Pelambres General Manager Robert Mayne-Nicholls said, "The initiative is in line with our goal to increase sustainability in our power supply mix at competitive prices. When operations began in 2000, we incorporated an energy generation mechanism into our conveyor belts, and as of this year, wind energy contracts.
"In the near-term, through 2015, we'll incorporate solar photovoltaic energy and more than 30% of our energy supply will be realized through renewable projects. In the medium-term, we will add run-of-the-river hydro-electricity and become a leading mining company in the use of clean sources of energy."
The Javiera solar plant, located in the Atacama Region, is currently under construction and is expected to be connected to the grid early in 2015. The project will deliver all of its electricity to the Central Interconnected System (SIC) to supply Los Pelambres, located in the Coquimbo Region. The term of the contract between the two companies is 20 years.
Antofagasta Minerals is the largest privately held mining group in Chile. In 2013, it produced 721,200 metric tons (mt) of copper in concentrate and cathodes, making it the fourth largest copper producer in Chile and ninth in the world. Last year, it also produced 9,000 t of molybdenum concentrate and 293,800 oz of gold.
The company is a subsidiary of Antofagasta plc, the only Chilean company that lists its shares on the London Stock Exchange, where it is part of the FTSE 100. Its mining operations—Centinela, Michilla and Los Pelambres—are located in northern and central Chile.
SunEdison also developed, built and interconnected the Amanecer Solar CAP plant in Copiapo, which was officially inaugurated by Chile's President Michelle Bachelet in June. It is regarded as the largest photovoltaic solar power plant in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. Power from the solar plant will fulfill an offtake agreement with CAP Group, an iron ore and pellet producer and the largest steelmaker in Chile.
The Amanecer Solar CAP plant has 100 MW of total installed capacity; the amount of energy consumed each year by approximately 125,000 Chilean homes, or equivalent to 10% of the renewable energy generation capacity goal established by the Chilean government for 2014. Project capital costs were reported to be $250 million.
Located 37 km from Copiapo in the Atacama Desert, the plant has more than 310,000 photovoltaic modules spread over 250 acres. According to SunEdison, the Amanecer Solar CAP plant was built in only six months. In its first year of operation, it is estimated that the plant will inject 270 gigawatt hours of clean energy into the SIC system. To generate the same amount of energy using diesel would require more than 71 million liters of fuel, according to SunEdison.
At the time of the project's June inauguration event, Jose Perez, president of SunEdison for Europe, Africa and Latin America, said, "This plant demonstrates that photovoltaic solar energy is an ideal way of diversifying the energy matrix in Chile, reducing costs and contributing toward meeting the demand for clean and sustainable energy. SunEdison has now interconnected 150 megawatts in the Atacama Desert—the 100-megawatt Amanecer Solar CAP plant plus a 50-megawatt power plant in San Andres—and this is just the starting point. We are firmly committed to the future of clean energy production and the development of the energy industry in Chile."
Officials at CAP Group said the plant will generate the equivalent of 15% of the group's energy demand.