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Final pre-flight checks before we begin Atacama development

We’re delighted to announce we’re making the last few preparations to launch our first Deal Stream 2 project, planned to break ground mid-2016 in Chile’s South Atacama desert. The project is for a sub-50MW solar energy facility that meets all the requirements for delivering a high quality, profitable solar park with excellent long term revenue potential. The key to building high quality renewable energy assets that deliver both effective carbon reductions and offer long term value creation for investors is defining the right kind of project. This first Atacama solar development is an excellent example:

  1. Location: The South Atacama is one of the best locations in the world for reliable solar energy. It’s high altitude delivers low temperatures for optimal panel operation, and also ensures very low cloud and air pollution to offer consistently optimal direct solar irradiance.
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  3. Grid node positioning: Even in an excellent location like the South Atacama, there’s significant variance in the efficiency of the grid nodes (the connection point for the national power grid). Depending on the location of any solar plant, there can be inherent transmission issues due to the point at which the power is dispatched to the grid architecture and distributed. In our case, we are building near a node that is located close to large urban and industrial centres, ensuring consistent demand for power and a low chance of power loss due to issues with cable maintenance and infrastructure engineering (which can be a major problem with remote grid nodes or nodes situated in difficult terrain).

With this first project agreed, all that remains for us to do is sign a partnership agreement with our Chinese solar conglomerate partners for the supply of the solar panels. As we write, our Business Development Director (and experienced Chinese industrial specialist) Bill Goldie is in China finalising the creation of our Deal Stream 2 consortium, formalising the relationship between Solar 350, the panel manufacturer and our engineering partners Grue & Hornstrup. Once the details are finalised, we will commence with full project development, planning a build that will take 6-8 months to complete.

Solar 350’s MD Nick Dimmock comments “We’d investigated over 30 projects before we located one that met our location and grid node requirements, which underpins the value of our development methodology. Our project criteria are strict because we only want to develop profitable sites that will create long term, high quality solar assets. The challenge isn’t building solar, the challenge is building solar where you can offer the best carbon emissions reductions, get the power where it is needed most, and do it reliably enough to mitigate the need for fossil burning power within grid architecture that can’t handle the intermittency of renewable power. This project will do just that.”

Given the inability of most grids to handle more than 20% renewable power (due to grid problems and the need to smooth out intermittency issues, managing different kinds of renewables and fossils on the same grid without utility scale storage) the best choices for solar investment rely on strong, reliable sun and smart positioning near the right kind of grid node. Our Deal Stream 2 criteria have been designed to identify those kinds projects.

Right now there is a lot of capital looking for renewable energy assets – especially infrastructure funds and pension funds – however in such a highly liquid global market, it’s difficult to differentiate the high quality long term assets from the rest. When the institutional investor boom on renewables is over, our Deal Stream 2 projects will remain the best solar investments in the world compared to many, which will struggle to yield their potential for revenue and carbon offsets in the long term due to their positioning or grid issues.

Looking forward, our local development partners in Chile have a number of other South Atacama projects identified for development, meaning this project marks the first step in a long term (and highly valuable) programme for Solar 350 and our partners. Which is why we refer to it as a ‘Deal Stream’ because once it starts, it has been structured to keep the projects flowing. We have spent two years working to define the right kind of the projects to create maximum value for investors from the highest quality assets. We think this approach is critical to the long term success of renewable development.

Watch this space for further announcements as the project develops.

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