Cover Story

Carnival time nearing for Brazilian solar

By Lucy Woods, Reporter, Solar Media

Solar failed to win any bids in two national renewable energy auctions held in Brazil last year, despite huge interest. But with fresh auctions planned later this year, Lucy Woods asks if the solar party is about get underway for Latin America’s largest untapped solar market

Introduction

It would probably be going too far to say that the 2014 Football World Cup shortly to reach its climax in Brazil has been the ‘Solar World Cup’, but PV has certainly enjoyed a high profile both in the run up and during the event.

Prior to the competition, much was made of Brazil 2014 being a ‘green’ World Cup, with a number of initiatives instigated to cut its carbon footprint, including PV panels on a number of the major stadiums. And of course, during the event itself, China’s Yingli Solar had a prominent role as a headline sponsor, even if, judging by the reaction of some punters on Twitter, not many people know who the company is.

The uninitiated might be forgiven, then, for thinking Brazil is a country in love with solar. Sadly this is not so. Certainly Brazil has plenty of sunshine and plenty of demand. But it currently enjoys the status of an almost-but-not-quite solar market – potentially enormous, but so far entirely untapped. Solar's role prominence in the glitz and glam of a World Cup should not disguise the fact that solar has yet to make any meaningful impact in Latin America's powerhouse.

Attempts last year to stimulate a solar market in Brazil by including it in national energy auctions failed, despite huge interest, essentially because the technology is still too costly there to compete with wind and hydro power. A ‘solar-only’ auction in one of Brazil’s states was more successful, awarding contracts for over 100MW, but the jury is still out on whether these projects will get built.

But as our lead feature in this edition of Solar Business Focus reveals, all that could be about to change. Perhaps as a consequence of the leg-up it had from its World Cup exposure, all the signs point to Brazil approaching a crucial tipping point beyond which solar could really start to take off.

The spark that could ignite Brazil’s solar tinder box is a recent drought that has seen the availability of hydro power drop and energy bills consequentially rise. This has prompted authorities to include solar in energy auctions planned for later this year that industry players hope could be the big chance for PV to start competing in this all important Latin American market.

Elsewhere in this issue of Solar Business Focus, we look at the evolution of solar monitoring. Growing fleet sizes and the need for more effective O&M regimes are just two of the many factors driving both the technology and business dynamics of this increasingly vital part of the PV equation. We talk to leading players such as First Solar about where the sector is headed.

We also explore the technological and financial challenges involved in combining PV and diesel generation. Hybrid systems are held to have huge potential in markets that rely heavily on diesel generation, particularly African countries. But the marrying of two very different animals opens up a can of technical and commercial worms with which the industry is only just beginning to get to grips. Leading players from companies including SMA and First Solar tell us how they’re doing it.

All this and more can be found in this issue of Solar Business Focus. We hope you enjoy reading it.

 

Regulars

Project Delivery

  • Monitor this

    Monitor this

    By Ben Willis, Head of content, Solar Media

    With investors looking for steady and predictable returns from their PV plant assets, monitoring technology is becoming increasingly important. Ben Willis investigates some of the capabilities offered by evolving monitoring technologies

  • PV’s political survival strategies

    PV’s political survival strategies

    By Andy Colthorpe, Reporter, Solar Media

    Whether from violent upheaval or policy reform, solar is particularly vulnerable to changes in the political landscape. Andy Colthorpe explores how developers can protect projects against the worst

  • Project Focus: Williamson Tea solar park

    Project Focus: Williamson Tea solar park

    By Ben Willis, Head of content, Solar Media

    In common with many businesses in rural Africa, the cost of energy is one of the most significant outlays for the farms operated by Williamson Tea, a publicly listed company in Kenya. Not, it seems for much longer.

Europe

  • UK solar, a victim of its own success

    UK solar, a victim of its own success

    By Peter Bennett, UK editor, Solar Media

    UK solar's record-breaking 2014 looks certain to make it Europe's number one market this year. But as Peter Bennett reports, this success could prove costly to solar, exposing it to political meddling that may put the brakes on future growth

Central & East Asia

  • How Suntech’s history can save its future

    How Suntech’s history can save its future

    By John Parnell, Deputy head of content, Solar Media

    Suntech is back from the brink. Surprisingly though, experts believe a damaged brand is not its main challenge and a clean bill of financial health may not be its greatest asset. John Parnell reports

Americas

  • Can solar in Canada measure up outside Ontario?

    Can solar in Canada measure up outside Ontario?

    By James Montgomery, Freelance journalist

    Ontario has so far dominated the PV scene in Canada, despite huge need and potential for the technology in other parts of the country. James Montgomery weighs up solar’s prospects for taking root in Canada’s other provinces

Southeast Asia & Oceania

  • Mini-grids: lessons learned and considerations for long-term success

    Mini-grids: lessons learned and considerations for long-term success

    By Evan Scandling, Evan Scandling, Southeast Asia regional director, Sunlabob Renewable Energy.

    With a large rural population and increasing demand for electrification, Southeast Asia is leading the way in the development of renewable energy mini-grids. Evan Scandling looks at what makes a successful mini-grid project and some of the future drivers of this burgeoning market

Africa & Middle East

  • Mixing it up: the rise of PV hybrids

    Mixing it up: the rise of PV hybrids

    By Ben Willis, Head of content, Solar Media

    PV has an increasingly vital role to play in breaking Africa’s reliance on costly diesel generation. Ben Willis reports on the solar industry’s efforts to realise the potential of PV-diesel hybrid systems in Africa

Last Word

  • Last Word

    By John Parnell, Deputy head of content, Solar Media

    From Ghana to Kenya, Morocco to South Africa, solar investments and project deployments are beginning to make their mark on the continent. Solar Business Focus spoke to Senegal’s former renewable energy minister, Louis Seck about how best to promote solar and other renewables in Africa.