The El Pelicano solar park, a photovoltaic power plant located in the northern region of Chile approximately 440 kilometres to the north of Santiago, was opened on January 11 2018. The plant, which represents an investment of $250 million, has a capacity of 110 megawatts (MW) and will provide approximately 42% of the energy required by the Santiago subway system.

The project was initially sponsored by Austrian Solar Chile and later sold to a consortium formed by Sun Power (United States) and Total (France).

The El Pelicano project was approved by Resolution 200 of the Environmental Assessment Agency on March 4 2015 following approximately 14 months of processing (the original application had been filed in December 2013). According to the Environmental Act of Law 19,300, certain activities and projects can be carried out only if they have been approved by the environmental authorities, including transmission lines and power plants with a generation capacity above 3 MW. If a project that requires environmental approval causes or is expected to cause certain environmental effects, the applicant must conduct an environmental impact assessment or the application will be processed under an environmental impact declaration.(1) The environmental approval of the El Pelicano project was obtained through an environmental impact declaration rather than an environmental impact assessment.

According to the data filed in the environmental impact declaration, the project consisted of the construction and operation of a photovoltaic park with 99 MW of nominal power to be injected into the central interconnected system with an installed power of 110,455.20 kilowatt hours. The project included the installation of 253,920 solar panels with a nominal power 435 MW, grouped in 25,392 strings composed of 10 panels each plus operational facilities and a transmission line. The project's operational life is estimated to be 30 years.

In 2014 solar power in Chile had an installed capacity of 11 MW. With the launch of the El Pelicano project, this capacity has risen to 2,100 MW.

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(1) Whether a project should be subject to an environmental impact declaration or environmental impact assessment depends on the type of project, its location and the expected effects of its construction and operation. According to Article 11 of the Environmental Act, projects or activities that will require an environmental impact assessment are those that may have at least one of the following effects, characteristics or circumstances:

  • risk to the health of the population due to the quantity and quality of effluents, emissions or waste;
  • significant adverse effects on the quantity and quality of renewable natural resources, including soil, water and air;
  • the resettlement of human communities or the significant alteration of the life systems and customs of such groups;
  • the construction of a project in or near people, resources or protected areas, priority sites for conservation, protected wetlands or glaciers that are susceptible to be affected by such a project and the environmental value of the area in which the project is intended to be located;
  • a significant alteration, in terms of magnitude or duration, of an area's landscape or tourist value; or
  • the alteration of monuments, sites of anthropological, archaeological or historical value or sites of cultural heritage more generally.