A new solar power plant is being built in Chile that has some exciting outcome on the horizon. It's expected to provide enough energy, both day and night, to power up to 13,000 homes annually. Cox Energia of Spain has won a bid of 140 gigawatt-hours of generation at a rate of $34.40 per megawatt-hour. What does this mean in terms of the green energy revolution across the planet? This is the move that will make Chile one of the top renewable energy spots in the world.
One unique aspect of Cox Energia’s bid is that it includes supplying power at night. The company hasn’t announced how that will exactly happen, and it raises questions as the bid only covers solar photovoltaic cells. It’s anticipated that the company will be turning toward lithium-ion battery backup, which is already being used in a number of large-scale renewable energy solutions.
At the end of November, Tesla met their aggressive goal of creating a Powerpack facility in South Australia. 100 megawatts of capacity now back up the Hornsdale Wind Farm so it can provide more efficient energy to consumers. Batteries have become the preferred option due to how cheap that technology is becoming -- similar to solar.
“I’m assuming they are going to combine their awards with some kind of storage solution, because there is no way they can generate solar overnight,” said Manan Parikh, Solar Analyst for Greentech Media Research Americas. “There’s got to be some other kind of technology in there.”
Cox Energia’s extremely low bid suggests that the company expects costs of solar and backup technology to fall further in the future. The Enel Group won a bid at $21.48 per megawatt-hour for 593 megawatts of renewable energy from wind and solar sources. When both go online in 2024, Chile expects electric prices to cut in half for residents.
Enel Green Power is a subsidiary of the original energy firm, Enel. Established in Italy in 2008, the company has a complete focus on the renewable energy industry in many parts of the world. In addition to Chile, the company has projects either operating or in development in 23 United States and two Canadian provinces.
Prikh also notes that this could give energy companies a chance to adopt a different technology that could crop up between now and then: "There’s an entire technology that could be created that we don’t even know about. It gives developers a lot of leeway in figuring out how they are going to go about doing all this.”
Lithium-ion batteries certainly have some caveats, such as losing their charge over extended periods of time. Of course, other alternatives for energy storage, such as thermal energy and supercapacitors, are still being developed, and do hold promise for the future. However, it's possible that battery costs will likely be down enough to purchase them in abundance before these other methods become cheaper. No matter what, it's certain that green energy is ready to boom.
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Based on the auctions for upcoming projects around the world, cost per kilowatt-hour will be competitive or lower than fossil fuels.
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