Chile's Stalled Solar Plant Works Toward 2019 Completion Date

EIG, a United States private equity investor, has saved the Cerro Dominador solar plant from abandonment in Chile. They'll be seeking help from banks to clear $800 million of construction debt and hopes to have the plant fully completed by 2019.


May 17 2019, Updated 3:23 p.m. ET

A thermal solar farm in Chile is hoping to avoid becoming a white elephant. EIG Global Energy Partners has taken on one part of the Cerro Dominador solar plant complex that’s only been paid a fifth of the way from its original developers. The thermal solar farm is more expensive than most currently built, but it has unique features that would help Chile if the facility is finally completed.

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EIG took over the project after Abengoa SA, the original developers of the project, was heading toward bankruptcy. They were able to avoid filing for Chapter 11 as the Spanish division worked out a plan with its creditors to get out of $10 billion worth of debt. EIG received 50 percent of the stake and would provide $1 billion worth of credit to restart the project. 

According to Bloomberg, only $200 million was spent by Abengoa on the project, meaning there’s a construction debt of around $800 million. That’s the number EIG is seeking from international banks, and due to a high volume of interest, a deal is expected to happen before the end of the year.

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The Cerro Dominador thermal solar power plant has had many issues since being approved by the Chilean government back in 2013. 15 months after construction began in May 2014, workers complained about poor working conditions and went on strike. When the project was halfway finished, Abengoa fired 1,500 people from the project as their financial issues came to the forefront.

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It’s a shame that the project has faced so many problems as it’s expected to generate 110 megawatts of power. Over 10,000 gigantic mirrors would transfer sunlight to heat a saline solution that would move turbines and generate power. Even though it was more expensive, it would increase efficiency and would provide electricity for 24 hours a day.

The project is also located in the Atacama Desert in the Antofagasta region of Chile. This is one of the hottest and most rampant areas of solar radiation in the entire world. It was also set to become the largest concentrated solar plant in all of Latin America. However, not everything has been dire for the power plant.

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100 megawatts of photovoltaic solar panels are used to supplement the Cerro Dominador solar power complex. According to PV Magazine, 62 megawatts worth of those panels are completed and have been connected to the grid. The remaining capacity will be installed by the end of the year while the thermal solar section of the plant should be able to fire up in 2019.

Assuming EIG doesn’t have any issues being able to bail out Abengoa and working conditions are improved, the Cerro Dominador project looks to be saved. It’ll be a significant boost for Chile’s goal seeking 20 percent of renewable energy powering the country by 2025.

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