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As in the rest of the world, Latin America also seeks to reduce the consumption of energy produced by fossil fuels as much as possible. Although the energy produced by oil and natural gas still predominates with 65% of the total energy produced, renewable sources such as solar are beginning to have a presence, in 2020 it is estimated that 6% of the energy produced was solar.

Countries like Chile, Brazil and Mexico have managed to excel in this area thanks to the investment they have made to have a greater number of massive solar plants. Next, we will talk about the largest photovoltaic plants in Latin America, where they are located, how much energy they produce, and what their cost.

The solar panels are out of sight, over a large area as more than 1,500 football fields. Pirapora, the largest photovoltaic power plant in Latin America, should enable Brazil to catch up with its delay in solar energy.

The commissioning of this complex, operated by EDF Énergies Nouvelles (a subsidiary of the USA energy company specializing in renewable energy sources) took place at the beginning of September and the second of the three phases of the project began to produce electricity. 

When the assembly will be operational, towards the end of the first half of 2018, the complex will have an installed capacity of 400 megawatts (MW). Enough to provide electricity to 420,000 homes.

An “emblematic project” for EDF EN

“This is an emblematic project, of an exceptional size, on a site which has the advantage of being flat, with little vegetation and strong sunshine, near a very high voltage connection”, explains Paulo Abranches. , Managing Director of EDF-Énergies Nouvelles (EDF-EN) in Brazil.

The 800-hectare site is isolated in a plain 350 kilometers north of Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais (south-east), in the heart of sparse vegetation, scorched by the sun. To visit it, you have to wear gaiters that look like soccer shin guards, in order to avoid snake or spider bites.

If you think Solar panel would make your home appears dull then learn more Interesting facts about solar energy.

Positioned 1.20 meters from the ground, the panels are tilted and pivot following the movements of the sun, under the action of a device that is itself powered by solar energy. At noon, they are practically horizontal, when the sun is at its zenith. If the sky is loaded with clouds, production continues, even if it is 30% lower, says the operator. 

1.2 million photovoltaic panels to be installed 

EDF EN owns 80% of the shares in the Pirapora photovoltaic park, the total investment of which is estimated at more than 2 billion reais (around 520 million dollars). The remaining 20% ​​is held by Canadian Solar, one of the leaders in the sector, responsible for the manufacture of some 1.2 million photovoltaic panels in the complex, in a factory located in the state of Sao Paulo (south-east). Local manufacture at a cost. “30 to 40% higher” than if these panels were imported from China, recognizes Paulo Abranches.

But that was the condition for Pirapora to also become the first power plant of this type to benefit from a loan from the Public Development Bank of Brazil (BNDES). Funding of 529 million reais for the first phase, about half of the investment made at this stage of the project. 

For Marcus Cardoso, head of the energy sector at BNDES, investing in solar energy “is a top priority” for Brazil to keep its commitments made during the Paris agreements: to increase the renewable share in the total production of energy to 45%. energy by 2030.

Brazil lagging behind 

For the moment, the share of solar amounts to only 0.2% of the country's electricity production, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Energy, dating from August. “Brazil is only beginning to make up for the 15-year delay in this area,” admits Rodrigo Sauaia, president of the Brazilian Solar Energy Association (ABSOLAR).

“We are in a pivotal year, with the commissioning of the first large solar power plants. The installed capacity, which stood at less than 90 MW in January, is expected to reach 1 gigawatt (GW) by the end of this year. year. Without counting 2 other GW in phase of construction “.

An expansion facilitated by a sharp drop in the costs of solar panels. Their price has been almost divided by ten over the past ten years.

“The fact that this is the first project to use locally manufactured photovoltaic modules contributes to the development of these technologies in Brazil”, emphasizes Rodrigo Sauaia. 

The government continues to bet on oil

Despite these advances, many efforts remain to be made. “The sunshine is much higher than that of a country like Germany, for example, which is much more advanced”, notes Mauro Lerer, engineer of Solarize, a company which provides training courses in solar energy in Rio de Janeiro.

Mauro Lerer points to a “lack of interest from the government, which continues to rely heavily on oil” and does not offer tax incentives to investors in solar. “Taxes should be reduced to stimulate investment. Many people would like to go solar, including individuals, but do not have the means,” he concludes.

In fact, Chile's potential is such that FRV recently relocated its regional headquarters from Brazil to Chile.

The government is not the only actor to recognize the growing need for renewable energy. Pavon says there is also a strong link between climate change and the need for renewable energy in the minds of the Chilean public.

Chile is over 4,000 km long, with different climates, but rainfall is generally low and the country has suffered a drought for 13 years. Add to this the bad reputation of hydropower, it's no surprise, Pavon says, that Chile's early adoption of renewables, and the favorable regulatory framework for renewables that accompanies, means that, together with Brazil, the country has the potential to become one of the continent's success stories in renewable energy.

Invest in water

The drought in Chile has highlighted the urgent need to invest in another vital part of the infrastructure of life: water.

According to information from the Meteorological Directorate of Chile, only 82 mm of precipitation has been recorded in Santiago since the beginning of 2019. The situation is even more worrying in the region of Valparaíso, in the center of the country, where it suffers a period of 12 months the driest in the region for a century. 

While this lack of rainfall has obvious negative effects on the country's agricultural sector, it also has implications for Chile's electricity supplies – around 50% of the country's electricity being produced by hydropower – and its mining operations, which also require large quantities of fresh water.

The investment includes several operation and maintenance contracts in the industrial water sector, as well as a set of mobile and multipurpose water treatment units, which provide short-term or emergency solutions. to industrial customers.

This portfolio is expected to grow rapidly with the development of hydraulic infrastructure projects and the provision of operation and maintenance services for a wide range of industrial sector clients looking to outsource these needs.

Amid the uncertainty, disruption and economic contraction caused by the recent pandemic, it is heartening and heartwarming that there are still positive indicators of a better future that is not so far away.

Take the global energy sector. Although consumption of most fuels globally fell in this particular year, renewables have gone against the grain and faced unprecedented demand. The spearhead of this growth has been solar energy. In 2020, solar energy saw a 23% expansion of new photovoltaic installations, reaching nearly 135 GW worldwide. To know more about installation cost is necessary to get rid of many misconceptions. 

Largest Solar Plants in Latin America

1.-Villanueva solar plant:

Located in Viesca in the state of Coahuila in Mexico, this plant has an annual generation of up to 1,700 GWh and a production capacity of 828MW. It is considered the largest photovoltaic silver in America. It has an area of ​​2400 hectares. The estimated investment was 650 million dollars. This plant was the first to be consolidated thanks to the energy reform carried out in the country.

2.-Nova Olinda solar plant:

Located in Ribera do Piauí in Brazil, this solar plant is the largest in that country. It is capable of generating up to 600 GWh per year and has a production capacity of 292 MW. This energy is produced thanks to its 926,985 solar panels. It is estimated that this plant is capable of powering up to 300,000 homes per year.

Thanks to this, it is estimated that the plant prevents 350,000 tons of CO2 from being dispersed into the environment. The plant has an area of ​​690 hectares. The plant was developed by the company specialized in sustainable infrastructure development PROIDEL.

3.- Pirapora solar plant:

Like the previous plant, this plant is located in Brazil, specifically in Minas Gerais. It has a production capacity of 284MW and a generation of 232GWh per year. The plant has a total area of ​​400 hectares. This complex has been built in parts. In the case of Pirapora 1, the approximate cost was $ 210 million, Pirapora 2 cost $ 100 million while Pirapora 3 cost approximately $ 75 million. The financing and development of the complex has been carried out by Canadian solar and EDF renewables.

4.-Don José solar plant:

This plant is located in the state of Guanajuato in Mexico. It has a production of 260MW. This plant has an area of ​​1,300 hectares, in which 850,000 solar panels are placed. An investment of 220 million dollars was made for its construction. The plant was made by the Enel Green Power company. The Mexican government offered to develop 10% of the plant. Currently, thanks to Don José, it is estimated that the dispersion of 340,000 tons of CO2 into the environment is avoided.

5.-Ituverava solar plant:

The last place on our list is also in Brazil, specifically in the Bahia region, this plant has a generation of 254MW and has a land area of ​​579 hectares. Capable of producing 550GWh per year, it is estimated that it feeds approximately 270,000 families per year and avoids the emission of 320,000 tons of CO2. This plant, like that of Don José in Mexico, was developed by Enel Green Power and cost approximately $ 400 million.

A bright future despite a supply chain setback

The data proves, should it be needed, that solar power is here to stay, despite sporadic logistical hurdles. For example, fires at two silicon manufacturing plants in China (a key exporter of solar PV modules) halved the country's silicon production in 2020. 

These incidents offset the 25% drop in module prices. solar energy recorded in the first half of 2020, and in September, caused silicon prices to soar by 60%.

The costs of other essential materials for solar panels also increased in the second half of the year. Prices for PV glass, for example, have increased by half due to delays in modernizing production lines. 

While prices for steel and copper have increased by 40% between September 2020 and March 2021, as industries have rebounded from COVID downturns and demand has increased.

 High oil prices have tripled transportation costs, affecting profitability at a critical time.

Meanwhile, in Latin America, a new solar capacity of 21 GW is slated for 2021/2022, with rapid solar growth expected in Brazil and Chile.

 Brazil's advantageous net pricing system will trigger a rapid expansion of distributed PV projects, as the large-scale Chilean market anticipates high levels of activity boosted by past auctions. 

The cancellation of clean energy certificate auctions is expected to hamper new developments in Mexico. However, many large-scale projects already under development will be operational in 2021/2022, before new rules come into force.

Australia faced an oversupply of clean energy certificates in 2020, hampering profitability on a large scale. Corporate PPAs are expected to restore business confidence and 9 GW of additional solar capacity is planned for 2021/2022. 

Further down the political chain, some states are encouraging the growth of distributed PV by supporting the expansion of battery storage facilities.

India's solar capacity additions tripled in 2021 compared to 2020, with several large-scale projects emerging late. The government awarded 27 GW of solar contracts in 2020 through auctions, ensuring continued PV growth this year and next. 

However, the lack of regulatory harmony between states continues to limit the expansion of distributed PV. Globally, India is forecasting 26.1 GW of new solar capacity in 2021/22.

Politics, as we can see, is essential for a thriving solar energy market. And 2021 could be a historic year for renewable energy policies globally.

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