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.