The Mexican government said it plans to develop what it claims will be Latin America’s largest PV plant. The array will be built in Puerto Penasco, in the state of Sonora, one of the world’s best regions for solar power generation.
The project was initially announced by the CEO of the country’s power utility, CFE, Manuel Bartlett Díaz, and Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador. They have claimed that the solar facility will be Latin America’s largest solar park and the eighth biggest in the world. Currently, Mexico’s largest operational PV project is the 750 MW Villanueva plant, built by Italian utility Enel in 2016.
Earlier, the governor of Sonora, Alfonso Durazo, said the project would require an investment of approximately $2 billion, with construction to proceed in several phases. He did not provide any details on project financing, but a private-public partnership is likely, given that the Obrador government has always opposed the idea of giving sole permission to build power assets to private investors.
The plant is expected to occupy a surface area of around 2,000 hectares. Construction will also entail the deployment of a new connection line. The project is part of an overall plan by CFE to modernize its power assets and distribution system. Sonora lies immediately south of Arizona.
CFE is currently also developing two PV projects with a combined capacity of 350 MW in the state of Baja California. It has only turned to solar in recent times, after having opposed energy reforms introduced by the Pena Nieto government in 2013. Through these reforms, which introduced a successful auction scheme for renewables, several gigawatts of solar power were deployed throughout the country, including 11 large-scale solar plants in Sonora.
In March 2019, CFE said it had decided not to resume auction tenders for renewable energy. In May 2020, Mexico’s National Energy Control Center (CENACE) imposed new restrictions on renewable energy deployment, citing the need to protect energy security during the Covid-19 pandemic. The provisions halted grid connections for new solar and wind power projects until further notice.