This work was financed by the French Development Agency (AFD), the European Union and the Central Bank of Bolivia, with a total investment of US$97.4 million.
“Currently, both plants are operating satisfactorily, contributing a great deal of renewable energy,” said Rodrigo Corrales, general manager of ENDE Guaracachi, the state-owned electricity company that operates the complex.
Corrales also affirmed that the surrounding Oruro department “is its main market”, but when demand in the region is less than the capacity of the solar plant, the energy is transmitted to neighbouring departments, including La Paz and Potosí.
The plant is located on a semi-desert of the Altiplano, or Andean Plateau, some 230 km south of La Paz, and another 40 km from the department’s capital city, also named Oruro. Corrales says that this positioning gives the plant a number of advantages, such as lower temperatures than other areas of the country, which improve the performance of the photovoltaic modules as they do not overheat. In addition, as the Bolivian Altiplano is one of the regions that receives the highest levels of solar radiation on the planet, “the energy potential is much greater, and allows a greater amount of energy to be produced [using solar],” Corrales explains.
More small plants and storage
When its second phase was inaugurated in February 2021, President Arce highlighted the importance of the project for the country’s energy transition. “We are making progress in changing the energy matrix towards clean and renewable energy. We are generating economic development and guaranteeing electricity for the [Oruro] department, taking care of Pachamama [Mother Earth],” he tweeted.
Corrales claims that since it has been in service, the Oruro plant has produced approximately 237 gigawatt hours of energy, preventing more than 188,627 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere, according to his calculations.
Read more: With its gas in decline, Bolivia faces an involuntary energy transition
The Bolivian government intends to install new plants of this type in the Altiplano region. At the end of 2021, the Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy, Franklin Molina, announced an intention to add 500 MW of new renewable and clean energy projects.
Corrales confirms that the possibility of installing photovoltaic plants with a combined capacity of an additional 300 MW is being studied. “We are analysing these and looking for the ideal sites,” he says.
Specialists have some recommendations for these new solar energy projects. Miguel Fernández, an energy researcher and director of Bolivian development organisation Energética, told Diálogo Chino that the installation of smaller, more distributed plants than that at Ancotanga would be more appropriate, in order to reduce the impact when clouds gather and hinder solar panels’ capacity to generate electricity.
“The clouds pass by at 70 kilometres per hour. We may not feel the shadow, but the solar panels do. The moment clouds pass, there is a dip in power. Even if it lasts 10 …….