August 10, 2017 / 2:33 AM / 8 days ago

Fresh off wind farm deal, Ireland's Mainstream bullish on Chilean renewables

SANTIAGO, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Ireland's Mainstream Renewable Power is confident it will be able to maintain a steady pipeline of power projects in Chile, an executive told Reuters on Wednesday, even as some firms have soured on the country's renewable sector in recent years.

Aela Energia, a joint venture between Mainstream and British private equity firm Actis, on Wednesday announced it had sealed $410 million in bank financing to construct two wind farms with total capacity of 299 megawatts in the South American nation.

The financial close on the farms, known as Sarco and Aurora, marks one of the biggest wind power deals in Chile, which has seen a wind and solar energy boom in recent years due to a steady regulatory framework and near-perfect conditions for such sources of power.

But it also comes as falling energy prices, transmission grid issues and sluggish demand from the nation's key mining sector begin to sow doubts among some investors.

Still, Mainstream remains optimistic, the company's commercial manager for Chile, Daniel Canales, said on Wednesday.

He said the firm was looking to some of the banks that financed Sarco and Aurora to help its plans to build wind farms needed to fulfill 986 megawatts in contracts Mainstream was awarded by the Chilean government last year.

"We've started conversations with the current banks, looking toward the next platform," Canales said.

He added that Mainstream had received "significant" interest from outside firms looking to partner on new wind projects. In April, Reuters reported that one of those firms was U.S. industrial conglomerate General Electric Co.

In neighboring Argentina, Mainstream is also very interested in participating in upcoming public power auctions, Canales said.

However, he said the Argentine market required structural changes to realize its full potential, such as improved regulations, investments in transmission and less macroeconomic uncertainty.

"Because of that we're thinking about entering on a small scale, with a well-located project," he said.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Additional reporting by Nicolas Misculin in Buenos Aires; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Joseph Radford

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