More than 1 GW of solar PV expected to come online in Latin America in 2014

Developers report at least 836 MW-DC of solar PV projects under construction in Latin America, according to a new analysis by GTM Research. The company’s Q3 2014 Latin America PV Playbook also predicts that more than 1 GW of solar PV will come online in the region throughout 2014, representing exponential growth.

By contrast only 50 MW was installed in Latin America during the last three months, bringing the region to 377 MW of utility-scale solar PV installed to date. Latin America remains dominated by utility-scale PV projects, and GTM Research expects that a little more than 100 MW of this will be behind-the-meter residential and commercial projects.

Chile, Mexico and Brazil are the the most high-profile markets in the region; however GTM Research predicts that only around 400 MW of new capacity will come online in these three nations in 2014, and that the rest of the region will commission more than 600 MW.

“It’s not all about Chile, Mexico and Brazil,” says GTM Reseach Analyst Adam James, who wrote the report. James notes a lot of activity throughout the region, including in Central America.

The company counts an additional pipeline of 18.8 GW of solar PV projects announced in Latin America to date, a significant growth over a year ago. 1.4 GW of these projects have secured power purchase agreements and/or financing.

Many of these large projects are located in Chile, and the report expects the nation to install a total of 277 MW-DC in over the course of 2014.

Among the projects which are expected to be completed by the end of 2014 is SunPower’s project Salvador, a 70 MW solar PV plant which will sell the electricity it produces on the spot market. SunPower, SunEdison and other developers are building several very large merchant solar PV plants in the region, with merchant power representing a new business model for the solar industry that Chile is pioneering.

Salvador is typical of the projects built by American developers in that it has received a US$155 million loan from the U.S. government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). While many development banks have funded projects in Chile OPIC is the largest, and had committed $887 million in loans to five large projects in Chile as of late June 2014.

In Mexico, pending energy reform legislation has stalled the market. And while GTM Research Analyst Adam James says that this legislation should boost the market in the long run, exact impacts are hard to tell given the limited details that have been released by the government.

As a result, James predicts that Mexico will install only 97 MW over the course of 2014. “A lot of these large-scale projects are bleeding into 2015,” notes James. He also notes that the majority of projects which he expects to reach completion this year in Mexico are commercial, not utility-scale.