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In 1992, when the last Chilean census was taken, 240,000 homes in the country were without electricity. During the last few years, several systems have been implemented in rural areas to generate power: small hydraulic plants in southern Chile to take advantage of a greater hydraulic capacity, and solar home systems (SHS) in northern Chile where solar radiation is more abundant. The SHS consists of a photovoltaic panel, a charge regulator, a battery, lights, a socket and switches. There are no set standards for the installation of the SHS, and the exact number of systems installed and their faults (if any) are not known. Nor is it clear if the expectations of the financing organizations or the users have been fulfilled. Until now, there has not been any study of the impact that these systems have had on the population. This work corresponds to the first part of a study suggesting standards for the installation of the SHS, and also considers some additional general and specific issues related to photovoltaic electrification. The objective of this work is to evaluate the social and technical advantages and disadvantages of the existing photovoltaic systems in the commune of Camarones. The systems are identified and classified, and their faults and virtues are determined in order to present possible improvements to those systems.
Date of Publication: Spring 2001