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Concentrating solar power (CSP) is a technology used to turn solar thermal energy into electricity. The other main solar technology is photovoltaic (PV).
CSP plants use mirrors to concentrate, or focus, the sun's energy and convert it into heat to create steam to spin a turbine that generates electricity.
These solar thermal energy plants employ one of the following systems: trough, power tower or dish/engine.
In northern Chile, a Spanish firm is building a hybrid CSP-PV plant, and has plans for two other similar plants.
No longer on the margins of the power sector, developers of both PV and CSP solar power systems in Chile are now able to secure long-term power purchase agreements with distributors as a result of falling costs and renewable-friendly reforms to the power auction system. This means that solar generators can more easily secure financing from multilateral development banks and, increasingly, from commercial lenders too.
Similarly, the world's largest solar players – including Enel Green Power, SunEdison and China's Yingli – have taken notice of the potential of countries such as Mexico and Brazil, and are increasingly allocating resources to these countries and the region as a whole.
Several countries have accumulated large pipelines of solar energy system projects – mostly PV – in various stages of development. Furthermore, in the last year, developers have successfully bid on supply contracts in competitive auctions, an important milestone for utility-scale solar farms in the region.
The region this year surpassed the 1GW mark for installed solar capacity.
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