Solar technology grows in Latin America

Updated: 2014-10-12 22:13

By YANG YAO in Beijing(China Daily USA)

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Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is poised to play a substantial role in fulfilling the need for increased power generation capacity across the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, according to a latest industry report.

The total PV project pipeline is growing throughout the region and now exceeds 22 gigawatts (GW) of projects across all phases of development, according to the Emerging PV Markets Report: Latin America & Caribbean.

The report was released on Sep 29 by NPD Solarbuzz, a globally recognized market research-based business focused on the solar energy and photovoltaic industries since 2001.

It predicts that approximately nine GW of projects will be installed in the next five years. One GW of projects are already under construction, and five GW of projects have received approval to proceed and could begin construction soon.

Now, Brazil, Chile and Mexico are stimulating market growth, but opportunities exist across the entire region, the report said.

"Solar PV is now starting to emerge as a preferred energy technology for Latin American and Caribbean countries," said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. "The region has high electricity prices and it also benefits from strong solar irradiation, which makes it a good candidate for solar PV deployment. As a result, experienced global solar PV developers are seeing strong solar PV growth potential in the region."

Previously, the LAC region was confined to small-scale and off-grid solar PV applications, including rural electrification. Today, however, solar PV is being targeted to address large-scale utility power project requirements, primarily in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico.

"Many countries across the LAC region have the potential to develop into major solar PV markets in the future," said Barker. "While project pipelines vary by country, there is a strong contribution from early-stage developments that have yet to finalize supply deals or find end-users to purchase the generated electricity, which presents both risks and opportunities for industry players."

According to the institution's statistics, many of these projects are being developed by experienced international firms, including leading US-based companies First Solar, SunPower and SunEdison, and European developers Mainstream, Enel, and Solaria, which is increasing the likelihood that these projects will ultimately be executed.

Chinese solar companies are also trying to get a share in this prosperous market.

So far, at least eight public listed Chinese clean energy firms have embarked on their solar PV businesses in Latin America.

Yingli Solar, a Baoding based clean energy company which is the world's largest photovoltaic module manufacturer in terms of production capacity and shipments, announced on July 22 that they have opened their branch in Chili, making it their third office in the LAC.

According to the company, it has already deployed more than 25 megawatts (MW) of solar modules in Chile.

"Chile is a high-potential solar market and home to some of the strongest solar irradiation in the world, particularly in the Atacama Desert," said Robert Muhn, managing director of Yingli Green Energy Chile, "While we see tremendous growth potential in Chile's utility-scale market, we also anticipate that the country's relatively high electricity prices and strong solar resources will provide a foundation for a thriving and sustainable distributed generation market in the future."

As demonstrated by the company's long-standing presence in the region, the South and Central American solar energy markets are a major strategic priority in Yingli's long-term global development plans. In addition to Yingli's permanent offices in Mexico City, São Paolo, and Santiago, the company also maintains warehouses and inventory in both Mexico and Brazil, which expedite and streamline regional module deliveries.

"Our continued investments in Latin America are a reflection of our confidence in this key emerging market's long-term growth potential," said Jeffrey Barnett, ‎vice-president of international sales at Yingli Green Energy Americas. "Thanks to our strong team of professionals across the region, we are establishing lasting partnerships with pioneering companies to help drive the expansion of solar PV across Latin America."

Led by Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, the Latin American region is expected to install over 700MW of solar panels in 2014, according to GTM Research, a market analysis company.

The company predicts that solar demand in the region will exceed one gigawatt in 2015 and achieve a 50 percent annual growth rate for the next several years.