By Adam Critchley

With contracts signed in January for the first solar projects awarded in Argentina’s renewables tender, the north-western province of Salta is about to make its mark on the country’s solar map. Salta will be one of the focus regions during the El Futuro Solar Argentina conference (Buenos Aires, 28-30 March) and the province’s Electricity General Director, Jorge H. Giubergia, will take the stage to present his Energy Secretariat’s vision.


Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri in January declared 2017 to be the country’s “year of renewable energy”. Projects awarded through the first tenders of the RenovAr program will bring the renewable mix to 6 percent of the country’s total, which the government aims to increase to to 20 percent by 2025.

Solar is playing an important part in that drive. The 300 megawatts that was to be contracted in the first two tenders was overwhelmingly met with 58 offers for solar projects totalling more than 2,800 megawatts. Prices for the winning bids in the first auctions came in at $59.70 per megawatt-hour. 

Contracts for two solar facilities in Salta totalling 180 megawatts were signed on January 23

Salta province will see two solar projects built in the coming year as a result of rounds 1 and 1.5 of the RenovAr tender program, out of a total of 20 solar projects that are to be developed. 

Contracts for two solar facilities in Salta totalling 180 megawatts were signed on January 23, with a joint venture of Fieldfare and Isolux for the La Puna PV park, and separately with Isolux for the Cafayate PV facility.

Jorge H. Giubergia, director general for electricity at Salta’s energy secretariat, told Solarplaza of his optimism and contentedness at how the RenovAr program is shaping up.

“If you had asked me the same question a month ago, I would have been more pessimistic, but in January the first solar contracts were signed between the government and the companies that won solar contracts in Salta and Jujuy,” he said. 

He added that part of Salta’s key to its solar success is that, in addition to the province being among the world’s top seven regions for solar irradiation levels, the local authorities offered competitive terms to developers for land acquisition.

“This is the year of renewable energy. Each year a premise is set by the government, and this year it’s the turn of renewables.”

He added that part of Salta’s key to its solar success is that, in addition to the province being among the world’s top seven regions for solar irradiation levels, the local authorities offered competitive terms to developers for land acquisition.

Salta could see installed solar capacity surpass 800 megawatts in the coming years.

But while the process has so far been successful, the next challenge will be to see if developers can secure financing. 

Giubergia said that, despite Argentina having had its image as an investment destination tarnished by years of economic crises, confidence is now recovering. But in order to consolidate that recovery, the country needs to see that investment arrive. 

“But it looks as if we are moving towards that,” he said.

The fact that the signing of the contracts required the presentation of land rights and the completion of environmental studies is another sign that the development process is moving forward, Giubergia said.

In addition to the province’s high solar irradiation levels, Salta also has the advantage of having spare transmission capacity, he added.

 

In addition to the province’s high solar irradiation levels, Salta also has the advantage of having spare transmission capacity, he added.

“We are working towards developing more infrastructure to avoid a problem that occurred in Chile, for example, where the lack of transmission infrastructure was impeding the development of renewable energy projects.”

But that still remains the biggest challenge for Argentina, and the country needs to continue to expand its transmission capacity, Giubergia said.

“We are working on a more regional focus, so that it is not just Salta, but the six provinces of the country’s north, that can benefit from the solar resource. And whatever energy source we use, we need to expand the transmission capacity,” he added.

He also spoke of Argentina’s potential to move towards energy exports, given the northern region’s proximity to Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil.

“We are working on establishing electricity links to Bolivia, which do not yet exist, and in the future we could have the opportunity to export, but that is a long-term task of coordination between countries,” he said.

And he believes that Argentina can meet that goal of 20 percent renewables by 2025, as long as there is coherence between planning and legislation.

“Argentina has been innovative with distributed generation, which was introduced in 2015, but we still need to move forward. Salta has been working under international electricity safety laws for the last 10 years and is even more advanced than Buenos Aires in that respect. We are also implementing a smart grid pilot program, installing around 1,100 smart metres and new transformers to make the grid more efficient. Additionally we are carrying out a program of awareness among consumers to make their energy use more efficient.”   

“Salta is singular in geographical terms, the ways of its people, and the way we go about things and get things done. We’re getting there, although sometimes we have to take intermediate steps,” he said.


In the upcoming El Futuro Solar Argentina conference Salta will be represented on stage by the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Production, Raúl Javier Montero Sadir, and Jorge Horacio Giubergia, Electricity General Director of the Salta Energy Secretariat. The conference takes place in Buenos Aires from 28 to 30 March.