Mexico’s installed PV capacity tops 3 GW

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Mexico has reached operational installed PV capacity of 3 GW, according to provisional numbers released by Mexican solar energy association Asolmex.

A leap in new capacity last year was due to the grid connection of several large-scale projects selected in Mexico’s energy auctions. Asolmex reports that of the operational 39 solar parks in the country, 10 were awarded in the country’s first and second power auctions, for which the assigned solar capacities were 1.69 GW and 1.85 GW, respectively.

A map of Mexico’s 39 operational solar parks.

Image: Asolmex

The association said last year’s growth was also the result of the cancellation of the 15% customs duty applied to imports of solar modules, a measure introduced in mid June by Mexico’s Federal Court of Fiscal and Administrative Justice in response to an appeal lodged by Asolmex.

Other decisive factors were the global falls in module prices after Beijing’s ‘5/31’ policy announcement, and the fact Mexican utility the Federal Electricity Commission decided in July to retire legal provisions – the “Amparo” – it planned to introduce against net metering rules for distributed generation.

The grid connection of the largest solar project in the Americas – the 828 MW Villanueva scheme in the state of Coahuila that was finalized by Italian energy company Enel in September – also boosted national capacity.

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“2018 was a year of success and sustained growth for the Mexican solar sector,” said Asolmex president Héctor Olea. “Only in solar power plants, the growth was greater than 1,800% of installed capacity compared to 2017.”

In distributed generation, the association reported that at the end of 2018 the number of contracts signed with residential and commercial and industrial PV generators under the net metering scheme had reached approximately 85,000.

Mexico is also seeing an increasing number of big solar parks being constructed in the private PPA segment. And projects such as the 405 MW plant recently completed by Spanish company Acciona in the Gulf of Baja California are selling power under both the auction regime and through a private PPA.

In its most recent forecasts, the Mexican Department of Energy said it expected 5.4 GW of cumulative PV capacity would be reached by the end of this year. Through the three energy auctions held to date, the Mexican government has allocated around 4.8 GW of solar.

The fourth auction, originally set for the end of last year, was postponed due to administration changes in the entities involved – state-owned utility the Federal Electricity Commission, the Energy Secretariat, and energy planning body the National Energy Control Center. The changes were due to the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president.