Used with permission from Comité Solar e Innovación Energética
Chile, France, Germany
The Atacama Desert, located in the northern part of Chile, has special conditions that require technology development to enable efficient solar energy generation. The area benefits from an average direct global radiation level of 3,500 kWh/m² per year and a horizontal global radiation level of 2,500 kWh/m² per year, one of the highest in the world. The desert features over 100,000 km² of cloud-free skies with an average 2 mm annual precipitation and 4,000 hours of sunlight per year. Medium temperatures in summer are below 30 °C and UV-B radiation is 65% above the highest European level, creating challenging conditions for solar energy technologies.
Development of new optimal solar technologies that can be used in the Atacama Desert will include new materials to resist high radiation levels, a bifacial photovoltaic panel to take advantage of the radiation at the ground and new methods for operation and maintenance considering the lack of water in the desert.
The development is in its early stages, however an important increase in the efficiency of the photovoltaics panels installed in desert conditions is anticipated, as well as a decrease in the cost of the panels and in the service time for operation and maintenance. The project also will implement a programme for developing and strengthening local R&D capacities, knowledge transfer, and training advanced, professional and technical human capital.
The project has the potential to be one of key element to take advantage of the highest radiation levels in the Atacama Desert and from here open new markets for Chilean exportation of high value products and related services.