Enel Green Power brings online El Paso Solar, Colombia’s largest PV plant

Published on Monday, 8 April 2019

“Enel Green Power’s first solar PV plant in Colombia represents a major milestone for the Group and for the country’s energy sector as a whole. This country represents an ideal market for green energy projects, as it boasts strong winds and high solar irradiation levels, in addition to its already advanced hydro sector. By building El Paso Solar and working towards a diversified portfolio of renewable projects throughout Colombia, we are strengthening our commitment to the country’s energy transition and sustainable development while further expanding our sizeable renewable footprint in South America.”

– Antonio Scala, Head of Enel Green Power in South America

EGP invested around 70 million US dollars in the construction of the facility, that covers an area of approximately 210 hectares, and is composed of around 250,000 solar panels installed on an innovative structure leveraging on cutting-edge solar tracking technology, which allows the panels to follow the sun with the aim to maximise the energy production.

El Paso will be able to produce around 176 GWh each year, meeting the annual energy needs of approximately 102,000 Colombian households, equivalent to about 400,000 people, while avoiding the annual emission of around 100,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

El Paso Solar is Colombia’s first renewable plant with centralised energy dispatch, which means having a daily commitment to deliver power to the grid, like any other large-scale conventional power plant.

Furthermore, El Paso was awarded baseload power (“energia firme”) dispatch obligations, which is the capability to generate output constantly, equal to 87.6 GWh/year as of December 2022, in February’s Reliability Charge (“Cargo por Confidabilidad”) tender, in which solar and wind projects participated for the first time.

“We are making a reality Colombia’s dream to diversify, complement and improve the competitiveness of our energy mix, with alternative sources such as the sun and wind. The Caribbean Coast, in particular, represents a unique opportunity thanks to the potential in solar and wind power that will boost Colombia's energy transformation. The El Paso solar plant will contribute to the development of an efficient, reliable and sustainable energy system. In addition, projects like this represent new opportunities for employment, investment and development for the country and its regions.”

– María Fernanda Suárez, Colombia’s Minister of Mines and Energy

The potential for wind and solar resources in this region may be greater than the water potential at the national level. The wind speed in La Guajira is double the world average, and the region also has one of the highest levels of solar irradiation.

In line with our Creating Shared Value (CSV) model, which aims to combine local communities’ needs and the development of business activities, several initiatives were carried out in the area.

One of these activities was the establishment of an employment committee aimed at seeking skilled and general labour workers, which helped hiring more than 750 people living in the areas around the facility during the construction phase.

Towards this aim, Colombia’s National Training Service (SENA, from the Spanish Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje) offered training in various areas, including the assembly of solar panels. Additionally, 40 local entrepreneurs were trained in business management and PV systems for a total of 12.35 kW were installed in four schools located near the project’s area, with the aim to provide them with emission-free solar power. Children attending those schools were educated on energy issues, in line with Enel’s “Play Energy” educational programme for schools.

Enel Green Power is also working in partnership with SENA and Schneider Electric to install a community-based renewable energy training lab, which will give locals the opportunity to access technical training in the PV field.

The El Paso construction site was based on EGP’s Sustainable Construction Site” model, incorporating the rational use of resources, such as water saving systems and recycling processes. In addition, El Paso has been planned to blend in with its surrounding environment and communities, its design involves an environmental corridor that will allow wildlife to pass through the project site.

The construction of El Paso Solar represents one step further towards achieving Colombia's goal of installing 1,500 MW of renewable capacity by 2022.

The implementation of this strategy will help the country further diversify its generation mix, boosting the resilience and sustainability of Colombia’s energy value chain.