Latin America, Caribbean to focus on solar energy

Latin America and the Caribbean will increasingly rely on solar energy as limited hydro addition and restricted access to fossil fuel affects key markets, Jaime Portaluppi, Latin America and the Caribbean ET Solar managing director, told Latin Business Daily Monday.

“The use of solar energy for Latin America is definitely irreversible,” Portaluppi said via telephone from ET Solar's regional headquarters in Chile.

The location of ET Solar's headquarters is considered strategic for the company, which combines Chinese manufacturing capacity with German engineering.

“In Chile, year after year there are fewer water resources, same as in Brazil. These two markets will begin to push solar energy [consumption]," Portaluppi said.

The company has solar energy projects in different stages for a total of 187 MW in all of Latin America and the Caribbean of which 23 MW will be completed in November. The construction stage for the remainder, which is a total of 164 MW, is scheduled to begin in 2016.

Of the total projects, 125 MW are in different stages of development in Chile while 62 MW correspond to projects in Brazil. The other 60 MW are spread out in other countries considered of "tactic" importance in the region.

Chile is considered a strategic market because of its large energy demand combined with a lack of crude oil sources. In addition, a large part of that energy demand is needed in the northern part of the country, which is desert.

Another strategic market for the company is Brazil, where ET Solar has formed a partnership with Weg, one of the country´s biggest industrial companies that manufacture motors as well as equipment for transmission, automation, energy and paint.

The alliance with Weg is significant because it allows ET Solar access to lower cost funds from the Brazilian development bank. This can benefit sales for products like solar inverters, substations and DC combiner boxes, making ET Solar's products easier to install in Brazil, where markets are protected by high custom barriers. This gives ET Solar a clear advantage over other products coming from the United States or Europe.

ET Solar, which started out making solar panels, was already involved in solar project developments by 2009. By 2011, they became involved in the management and raising of funds to channel into solar energy projects, and in 2014 and 2015, ET Solar started to develop its own projects.

Now ET Solar's Chile office has its experts involved in design, engineering, operation, construction and auditing. Future plans include consolidating its presence in Brazil by next year and opening an office in Mexico in 2017.

El Salvador and Panama are other areas of interest to the company.

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