PV capacity in Brazil could hit 100 GW by 2050

Growing demand for photovoltaic energy and strengthening economic activity could transform Brazil into a new giant of the solar industry with 100 GW of installed photovoltaic capacity by 2050, instead of just 8 GW currently forecast by government-backed research, according to Greenpeace Brazil.

The NGO, which wants to see more ambitious plans in place for renewable energy development, maintains the country could install as much as 2.8 GW of photovoltaic solar capacity by 2020 and up to 24 GW by 2030. Greenpeace published the projections in a new study entitled Energy [R]evolution ([R]evolução Energética).

Greenpeace’s more ambitious RE scenario is based on forecasts that take into account recent market experiences in Brazil and abroad. “The PV industry, for example, had an average growth rate of 46% between 2002 and 2012, according to the [European Photovoltaic Industry Association] EPIA,” Greenpeace explained.

The report includes forecasts developed by researchers at the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) as well as from the European Renewable Energy Council, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Greenpeace.

Current government forecasts, based on official projections from energy research company EPE, which is affiliated with the country’s Ministry of Energy and Mining, offer a much more modest outlook for PV: some 400 MW of solar capacity by 2020 and 1.1 GW by 2030.

Both scenarios are based on the same population and economic growth projections and national energy generation needs until 2050. "Brazil currently utilizes less than 1% of its wind energy generation potential and practically none of its solar generation potential," Greenpeace argues.

The NGO also wants the country to install 39 GW of concentrated solar power (CSP) by 2050, instead of the 3 GW expected by EPE.

While the government forecast envisages total investments in the electric sector of around BRL 1.87 trillion ($797.75 billion) between 2010 and 2050, Greenpeace’s more ambitious outlook would require a total investment of BRL 2.39 trillion ($1 trillion) in the same period, with 97% of these investments directed into renewable energy technologies such as PV solar, CSP, wind, biomass and oceanic energy.

"Considering that the price of natural gas and fuel oil will increase over the analyzed period, construction of fewer thermal power plants and more renewable capacity under the [R]E scenario would save BRL 1.11 trillion ($471 billion) until 2020, or BRL 28.4 billion ($12 billion) per year. This way total fuel savings would cover more than twice the additional investments required to implement the [R]E scenario," Greenpeace explained.

Meanwhile, on the ground, developers are gearing up to take part in the upcoming A-3 federal energy auction on Nov. 18, the first national auction that will include photovoltaic energy plants. All successful PV plants in the auction stand to gain 20-year supply contracts with electricity distribution companies that are seeking suppliers.

The system of federal auctions, which single-handedly helped to develop Brazil’s booming wind energy market, is seen as the best shot for most solar developers in the country. Not surprisingly, Brazil’s Electricity Regulatory Agency (ANEEL) recently received half a dozen new requests for regulatory authorization to develop and operate photovoltaic plants totaling 160 MW of installed capacity in August alone.

Developer Campina Serviços Administrativos applied for authorization to install the 30 MW Vazante 1 in Vazante municipality in Minas Gerais state as an independent power producer. A similar application for the 30 MW Vazante 2 was received from Salgueiro Serviços Administrativos.

Patos Serviços Administrativos applied for authorization to install 30 MW Peruaçu 1 in Itacarambi municipality in Minas Gerais, while Sunny Serviços Administrativos informed ANEEL it wanted to build 30 MW Peruaçu 2 in the same municipality.

The remaining two applications were filed by Mallorca Serviços Administrativos for the 30 MW Souza 2 in São Paulo and by Empresa Brasileira de Energia e Serviços for 10 MW Kwara Solar Russas I in Ceará state.