When it comes to solar power, Chile just got HOT. Why? Because soon the capital city’s subway, the Metro de Santiago, will be getting the majority of its power from solar energy.
Chile’s metro service, the second largest in South America, has signed a power purchase agreement with SunPower, based in San Jose, California, to supply 300 GWh of solar energy per year, making it the first metro system ever to run primarily on solar power.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who recently announced the plan, says that not only will converting to solar allow passengers to travel quickly and safely, but they will be doing it in a way that “cares for the planet, reduces our carbon footprint, and makes possible a sustainable future for all.”
All Aboard the Solar Train
Converting the second largest subway system to solar is no small endeavor. Metro de Santiago has five lines, more than 100 stations and currently serves 2.2 million passengers per day. But it seems, SunPower, a partner of SunWorks, is up for the challenge:
“SunPower is proud to serve Metro of Santiago’s growing energy demand with cost-competitive, renewable solar power,” says Eduardo Medina, SunPower’s executive vice president of global power plants. “Solar is an ideal energy source for Chile because of the country’s high solar resource and transparent energy policies. In partnership with the European company, Total, SunPower is committed to the continued growth of our business in Chile.”
Bernard Clément, senior vice president of business and operations at Total’s New Energies division is equally upbeat. “This contract is expressing Chile’s commitment for a sustainable world,” says Clement. “This project supports our ambition to become the responsible energy major.”
The project will enter into service in 2018 and supply the metro for the upcoming 15 years.
On the Fast Track to Solar Energy
Construction for converting the metro is on a fast track with the new solar plant breaking ground this year and scheduled to finish up at the end of 2017.
SunPower will construct an Oasis power plant system at the site, which is a fully-integrated, modular solar power block that is engineered for rapid and cost-effective deployment of utility-scale solar projects while optimizing land use.
The technology includes robotic solar panel cleaning capability that uses 75 percent less water than traditional cleaning methods and can help improve system performance by up to 15 percent. SunPower will also provide operations and maintenance once the plant is operational.
This isn’t the first time South America has shown innovation on the civic solar energy front. The first soccer pitch powered by solar power and the players’ movement on the field was built in 2014 in Morro da Mineira, a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On sunny days, most of the field’s electrical needs are met with solar panels and then at night, people walking over the 200 energy generating cells under the field generates the power needed to keep the lights on.
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