Author: Jason Deign, Solarplaza
Image Credit: Greenpeace Brazil
PV players with asset management experience in Chile could have a natural advantage in Brazil’s rapidly expanding solar market, an expert has confirmed. “There is an opportunity for Chilean companies to bring knowledge to Brazil,” said Dr Rodrigo Lopes Sauaia, chief executive of the Brazilian Photovoltaic Solar Energy Association (Associação Brasileira de Energia Solar Fotovoltaica or ABSOLAR).
"There is an opportunity for Chilean companies to bring knowledge to Brazil"
“Projects in Chile are being developed in relatively arid climates,” he told Solarplaza. “In Northeast Brazil there is a similar, if milder, climate. Companies that have been doing construction and maintenance will have faced harder challenges in Chile than Brazil, so there is an opportunity to bring their know-how into the country.”
Another reason Chilean PV developers might want to look east for expansion is that despite recent concerns over the Brazilian economy there is still plenty of evidence that Brazil’s solar market will continue growing and ultimately overtake Chile’s. While Brazil’s solar market growth has lagged significantly behind Chile’s so far, the Global Solar Demand Monitor Q2 2016 report from GTM Research expects that to change in future.
The study puts Brazil 10 places behind Chile in the league table of countries by cumulative installed PV capacity from 2001 to 2015. But between 2016 and 2020 the roles will be reversed, with Brazil leaping 17 places up the league table, from 25 to eight, while Chile ascends just one place from its current 15th position.
The latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index from consultancy firm EY, meanwhile, puts Brazil just two places behind Chile, and ahead of major solar markets including Australia, South Africa and Japan. “While the market is understandably exercising some caution, Brazil’s renewable ambitions have shown surprising resilience in the face of economic volatility, tighter credit markets and presidential impeachment proceedings,” said the report.
"Brazil’s renewable ambitions have shown surprising resilience in the face of economic volatility, tighter credit markets and presidential impeachment proceedings"
Sauaia noted that much of Brazil’s potential stems from the sheer size of the market and its suitability for solar development. Brazil is one of the 10 largest economies in the world, with 200 million people, and has annual irradiance levels that range from 1,500 to 2,500 kWh/m2, with an average of around 1,800.
“It’s also a continent-sized country, so there’s plenty of land for the development of solar plants,” Sauaia said.
Last but not least, Brazil’s solar market is still in the very early stages of development. Sauaia said the country has up to around 60 MW of installed grid-connected solar generation capacity, and between 25 and 30 MW off grid. This level has been growing steadily since major renewable energy auctions were introduced in 2013, however.
Brazil now has several gigawatts of solar capacity in the pipeline and Sauaia said ABSOLAR had received official reassurances of an ongoing commitment to the industry. “The government has said it will keep up 2 GW of yearly auctions of large-scale PV capacity,” he said.