Chilean mining company CAP and U.S.-based SunEdison have signed a deal to build a 100 MW solar plant in the Atacama Desert, a project touted as the biggest of its kind in Latin America and also one of the world's largest.

Once completed, the plant in that arid region of northern Chile will supply 15 percent of the CAP steel and iron-ore group's energy needs.

The first stage of the solar park will be inaugurated late this year, while some 270 gigawatt hours of clean electricity are to be generated in the first year of operation.

That output will prevent the emission of 135,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, equivalent to removing 30,000 cars from the roads.

Earlier this year, the Tambo Real solar plant - built by Chile's Kaltemp and the third solar facility to come online in the South American country - was inaugurated in the northern Chilean region of Coquimbo.

Solar plants help reduce dependence on the highly polluting thermal power plants that supply electricity to the abundant mining operations in that vast area of northern Chile.

CAP also is building a seawater desalination plant that will have an initial production capacity of 200 liters (50 gallons) per second and be located near the Punta Totoralillo port in the Atacama region.

That plant will ensure sufficient supplies to the new Cerro Negro Norte iron-ore mine and obviate the need to draw from water sources in the Copiapo Valley, which is suffering from severe drought conditions.

Spanish technology multinational Abengoa is building a new transmission line and substations to supply electricity to the iron-ore mine and the desalination plant. EFE