Brazil's solar potential in the spotlight at Intersolar South America

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Intersolar South America kicked off in Brazil with great enthusiam but still little movement. The Latin American edition of the successful inernational PV event series, Intersolar premiered on September 18 at the Expo Center Norte’s Yello Pavilion in Sao Paulo.

With an impressive influx of visitors on its first day, the 64 exhibitors — as indicated in the event’s catalog — who are presenting their products, had the opportunity to reach a Brazilian audience eager to learn more about a technology that is becoming increasingly popular in the country and generating many positive forecasts, among them that by 2050 the country will have no less than 100 GW of installed photovoltaic power.

Intersolar South America is likely to meet its organizers’ expectations of some 5,000 visitors, not only due to the curiosity aroused by solar energy but also by the incentive that the entrance to the fair is free. For regulars of the other four annual events organized by Germany’s Solar Promotions GmbH, the South American edition is still a great distance from the confabs held in Germany, North America, China and India. Yet the show has potential and "we are confident in the support of the parent fair, Intersolar Munich," as Spanish inverter manufacturer Ingeteam, which chose Intersolar South America to make its official presentation in the Brazilian market, put it. Of note was the absence of large Chinese manufacturers, which are only represented by three companies, two of them from their American subsidiaries, as well as the high number of production equipment manufacturers.

The great potential of Brazil, the government’s recent opening of energy auctions to solar technology and new regulations for distributed generation were discussed at length and were among the main topics on the first day at the conference, insuring a nearly packed house. In contrast to last year, the current edition has not only extended the length of the conferences from one to three days, but also presented very different prospects.

Brazil, the main focus on the first day of the event, has for the first time this year allowed solar to be included in the country’s A-3 and A-5 energy auctions. In the A-3 auction, in which plants commit to be operational in 2016, solar developers submitted no less than 2.79 GW of applications, despite the fact that the price of electricity is set at BRL 140 ($60) per megawatt hour. Although the uncertainty is the real price, as solar companies have to compete with wind and combined cycle, "there is potential for solar in the A-3 bidding,” Gonrini Ricardo de Oliveira, superintendent of Brazil’s federal energy planning company, Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica (EPE), optimistically told pv magazine. Also cause for celebration was the announcement by the state of Pernambuco that it would hold what is being called "first solar tender in Brazil," according to Leonardo Raposo de Aguiar of Tecnometal, the only manufacturer of photovoltaic modules to date in Brazil. The specifications for the first block of 60 MW, of a total of 180 MW on auction up to 2016, will be announced in late September.

Despite the government’s change in discourse regarding solar, Mauro Passos, CEO of Brazil’s Institute for Developing Altnernative Energy in Latin America (Ideal), says there are still a number of barriers to overcome. Roberto Zilles of the Institute for Energy and Environment at the University of Sao Paulo, said there is "not enough people qualified to install," which could hamper big plans for new installations. In his opinion, "this is one of the reasons why the market is growing so slowly.” The Institute for Energy and Environment is one of the few that provide the national Inmetro certification to sell imported modules in the Brazilian market. Zilles says that about 200 models from some two dozen manufacturers have certified since last year. Among the companies that have used the laboratory are Yingli, Canadian Solar, Kyocera and SolarWorld.

Although Brazil was the main topic on the first day of Intersolar South America, the confab also highlighted other global markets, such as China as well as neighboring Latin American territories like Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. With respect to Uruguay, Gustavo Weigel of consultancy Clean Teach Capital, said that in addition to the tariff program introduced by the government in May, the country enjoyed "a very favorable tax framework for PV, which can make return rates attractive."

Translated by Edgar Meza