Brazil: Vensolbras to install over 200 MW of PV

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In an interview, Vensolbras’s technical director Stevan Ruschel da Silveira said the company plans to start work on 1 MWp of new photovoltaic capacity this year, followed by up to 5 MWp in 2014. The Brazilian company aims to install a further 200 MWp by 2016. It is expected that all the plants will be located in central-west Piauí state, northeast Brazil.

Vensolbras hopes to complete its first 1 MWp project this October at an estimated cost of BRL8 million (around €3.07 million; US$3.9 million). This will be followed by a plant up to 5 MWp in size in July 2014, which is expected to cost a further around BRL40 million.

"We have plans to erect about 2 to 5 MWp during the next year and we are looking now for investors and for a way to make it economically possible in the [current] Brazilian market," Vensolbras’s technical director Stevan Ruschel da Silveira told pv magazine.

Veonsolbras already has permission to build up to 5 MWp; it is now in the process of securing a license for its 200 MWp plans.

Meanwhile, the company has acquired 260 of the 500 hectares required to install the 200 MWp plant in the São João do Piauí municipality. If all goes to plan, the plant should be online in January 2016. It will require an investment of approximately BRL1.2 billion.

The company expects the federal government to hold a solar energy auction in the next one or two years which, it says, is a precondition for the 200 MWp plant to go ahead, because "photovoltaic energy is not competitive with hydro and wind energy in Brazil."

"We will request authorization from [Brazil’s National Electricity Agency] ANEEL probably in the next 15 days. The [200 MWp Piauí] project is divided in one 20 MWp, and six 30 MWp modules. The next step is to finish the environmental license. We expect to have the authorization in about 60 to 90 days," said Ruschel da Silveira, who is also the responsible engineer for the photovoltaic projects.

"We are basing these projects on poly modules. We do not have a fixed supplier and we will definitely choose the provider for the modules just when secure the PPA. We do not have competitive panels in Brazil, so they will be imported, most probably from USA or China," the Vensolbras technical director added.

São João do Piauí municipality has great solar potential with more than 21,500 KJ/m² of solar radiation per day in the annual average. The terrain that will host the new solar plants is sandy and flat, and the climate is dry, with seven to eight consecutive months without rain per year, "which is an advantage for [obtaining ] the environmental license because vegetation suppression is lower," Ruschel da Silveira added.

Another favorable factor is that the prospective plant is located near a CHESF-owned substation, one of the largest substations in northeast Brazil, which means that the required transmission line will be shorter than three kilometers.

Photovoltaic energy production is still incipient in Brazil, which approved smart grid regulations just last December. "Utility-scale power plants in Brazil are negotiated in auctions regulated by the national government and at this moment there is no auction for solar power plants. We are waiting for one solar [energy] auction in the next one or two years (to start producing energy in three or four years), and then we have in Piauí a sufficient area to erect 200 MW," said Ruschel da Silveira.

Vensolbras is a domestically-owned company based in Salvador, Bahia state, and is derived from a building firm that operates in many states of northeast Brazil.

Edited by Becky Beetz.