UGE completes 1.2 MW of distributed solar in Panama

Central America is rapidly growing as a hot spot for solar and other forms of renewable energy development. However, like most of Latin America, much of the development to date has been large utility-scale projects and less in the way of distributed solar.

Today UGE and its Latin American partner OTEPI have announced completion of 1.2 MW of distributed solar projects for Cochez y Cia SA, a hardware and construction materials supplier in Panama. The projects utilize Yingli multicrystalline silicon modules, UGE SeamlessGrid inverters and ViewUGE Plus monitoring systems.

Over the next 12 months, the companies expect to install and commission another 16 sites, which will bring the total capacity 4.5 MW. If completed, this will be the largest group of commercial solar projects in Panama to date.

Each individual project is below 500 kW and therefore all qualify for Panama’s net metering program. UGE says that there are no subsidies for solar in Panama.

Subsidies may not be needed, as UGE CEO Nick Blitterswyk says that the economics of the project are “very compelling”. “It’s a fantastic market,” Blitterswyk told pv magazine. “Equatorial and fairly high energy prices.”

UGE also financing the projects for Cochez using its warehouse facility. Blitterswyk says that being able to offer financing for its projects provides UGE with a competitive advantage, and notes that access to financing is a significant challenge across Latin America.

And while distributed solar is still a small market segment in Latin America, it is growing. GTM Research put PV projects smaller than 1 MW at 10% or less of Latin American PV installed in 2014 and 2015. The company expects this to increase to around 17% by 2020.

UGE’s Blitterswyk also describes Panama’s commercial market as immature, but estimates that the market will grow to about 10 MW in 2015 from only a little over 1 MW in 2014.

“It’s still very early,” notes Blitterswyk.