18,990 Solar Panels Were Installed in One Day in Mexico

16th Aug 18

Written by James Doyle

The Villanueva solar farm is being developed in the Coahuila desert, in Mexico, and it will be the largest photovoltaic system in the Americas once completed. The project is a 754-MW colossus, surpassing Warren Buffett’s 579-MW Solar Star power station in California, previously the largest solar system in North and South America.

Enel Green Power are the developers of the Villanueva solar farm, and the project has drawn attention for its safety record: zero accidents after more than 3 million man-hours of work. The Villanueva project has also surpassed the daily installation record of solar panels twice: first with 16,020 panels in one day, and then with 18,990.

Enel had already achieved remarkable solar panel installation rates in two other projects in Brazil: 15,584 modules in one day in Nova Olinda, and 11,676 modules in one day in Ituverava.

Scale of the Villanueva Solar Farm

The Villanueva solar farm has an impressive scale. Once completed, the installation will have 2.3 million solar panels in operation, covering an area of 24 square kilometres in the Coahuila desert.

The estimated energy output from the Villanueva project is over 1,700 gigawatt-hours per year, or 1.7 billion kilowatt-hours. This is equivalent to over 2,250 kWh for every kilowatt of installed capacity, and enough to power more than 1.3 million Mexican homes.

Innovative technologies have been deployed to boost productivity and enhance safety at the Villanueva solar project.

  • For example, some land movement activities have been performed with GPS-controlled machinery, which uses 30% less fuel.
  • The solar array wiring process has been accomplished with 10 times more productivity, thanks to automation.

How Has Mexico Attracted Solar Power Investment?

Mexico provides yet another example of how fast the solar industry can grow with favorable regulations. The country has been creating a competitive electricity market in recent years, after the state-owned electric company had been the only power retailer for decades.

In addition to opening the power market, Mexico has established renewable energy targets that apply for large-scale industrial consumers and many public entities. These renewable energy targets have been combined with a Renewable Energy Certificate program:

  • Clean power generators accumulate one credit for every 1,000 kWh produced.
  • The official name of these credits is Certificados de Energía Limpia, or CEL (Clean Energy Certificates, in Spanish)
  • CELs are very similar to the Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGC) in Australia, since they are claimed based on accumulated generation and traded in a free market.

Solar photovoltaic arrays and other clean generation systems become more attractive investments when there is a renewable energy credit market. In addition to providing income from electricity sales, these projects provide a second revenue stream from credit sales.

Mexico has been very successful in drawing clean energy investment, especially towards solar and wind power. Some of the largest solar and wind farms recently announced are located in Mexico, and the corresponding kilowatt-hour prices are among the lowest ever recorded.

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