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Etrion gets Chile solar PPA

Etrion has nabbed a power-purchase agreement with a mining company for an 8.8MW PV system in northern Chile, adding to the tremendous momentum Chile’s nascent solar sector has built over the past few months.

Etrion, a mid-sized solar power producer based in Switzerland, first signed a letter of intent with Atacama Minerals Chile to build the $25m PV system in January.

But with a PPA in hand, Etrion can launch into construction by the end of the year, with commissioning slated for second-quarter 2014.

The power will be sold on a take-or-pay basis, with the PV system expected to provide 35% of the Aguas Blancas iodine mine’s total power requirements.

The project will be financed via non-recourse debt and an unspecified amount of equity from Etrion.

Etrion’s existing 60MW PV portfolio lies entirely within Italy, underscoring just how attractive Chile has become to global solar developers.

This week SolarPack, the Spanish EPC player, secured financing for 26.5MW of PV capacity in Chile, including the first investment the Inter-America Development Bank has made into a privately owned solar project.

Meanwhile, earlier this month First Solar and SunEdison filed applications to build 162MW and 92MW plants, respectively, in northern Chile. All of those projects, including Etrion’s, will be unsubsidized.

The Aguas Blancas PPA “demonstrates that solar can operate without government subsidies”, says Etrion chief executive Marco Northland.

Listed in Sweden and Toronto, Etrion has a strategy to diversify away from subsidised assets in Europe towards more long-term agreements with industrial clients, particularly in the mining sector.

“Having operations in Chile will smooth the effects of seasonality on our business, which will positively impact our results and cash flow position,” Northland adds.

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