First Solar has held a ceremony to mark the installation of the first solar panel at the Luz del Norte solar power plant in Chile.

The firm is building the 141 MW power plant in Chile’s Atacama desert, 58 km north of Copiapó. It is expected to be completed by December 2015 and will become the largest solar plant in Latin America as well as the biggest solar power facility in the world to sell electricity on an open contract basis.

The project will generate power using 1.7 million of First Solar’s photovoltaic (PV) thin film modules and will contribute to Chile’s drive to increase generating capacity as well as diversify energy sources.

"This year alone, we are incorporating more than 1000 MW of new energy to our system through different non-conventional renewable energies," said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet at the ceremony. "This is an important step towards our 2025 target of having 20 per cent of our energy coming from non-conventional renewable energies."

In June First Solar won financial backing from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the IFC to support the construction of Luz del Norte. The OPIC board approved a loan of up to $230 million; the IFC board approved a $60 million loan.