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Latin America Report: Region Offers New Direction for China's Solar Giants

Suntech recently passed the 1 gigawatt (GW) mark in the Americas, and of course, the vast share of those installations were done in the more mature, lucrative and stable North America region.

But if Suntech is to achieve its second GW in half the time, as they are suggesting, they’ll likely find an increasing share of their sales coming from Latin America. That’s an area all manufacturers are targeting, and it’s a region Chinese module makers are especially well-positioned to serve.

Brazil’s plan to spur a solar industry built on local manufacturing is running into some trouble. But the nation’s local content approach is unlikely to be replicated by any of its regional neighbors, where energy needs are high and where the thirst for renewables is growing by the day.

Consider places like Haiti, a nation with severe energy challenges stemming from the 2010 catastrophic earthquake and a growing need for stable, and often distributed solutions. Or a place like Chile, which wants low-cost dispatchable sources to power a thriving mining industry. Or Mexico, which has all of 6 MW installed nationwide, where the jobs created by investing in solar would create a massive installation industry.

This puts Latin America in line to take advantage of the plummeting cost of PV and perhaps the rise of innovative technologies like high concentrated photovoltaics (HCPV). And it will give companies like Suntech a growing market for its panels. As the United States and European markets put a premium on domestically manufactured solar panels, China module makers will step up the effort to open new opportunities. It’s already starting to happen, and the trade issues will only speed up that process.


A DEEPER LOOK

Geothermal in South America: If any part of the world should be concerned about the effects of climate change, it is South America. Despite contributing some of the lowest emissions globally, many of the countries in the region are located in global-warming hotspots. As South America’s population is expected to rise 72% by 2035, the impact of climate change grows more significant each day. Governments are reacting with renewable energy development — and geothermal power has several major prospects.

Five Groups Using Solar to End Energy Poverty: Approximately 1.3 billion people live without regular access to energy. People are forced to use fuels that pollute and cause respiratory illnesses, like kerosene and biomass, and spend long hours time collecting fuel. It is a global crisis that is harming the health and well-being of people in the developing world, in addition to harming the planet.


IN THE NEWS

Sinovel Denies Facing Litigation in Brazil: Sinovel Wind Group Co, China's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, again denied Thursday media reports that the company was being pursued through courts by its Brazilian client Desenvix over allegations that Sinovel stole software codes from a US company, AMSC.

Brazil-Paraguay Hydro Dispute: Brazil reminded Paraguay it can use the power it needs from the giant Itaipu hydro but there is a contract which regulates how to manage the surplus. A day earlier president Federico Franco said that Paraguay would not “yield” any more electricity to Brazil.

ABB Wins $55 Million Wind Power Order: ABB has won an order worth $55 million to supply three new substations and transmission infrastructure for the Brazilian utility Eolicas do Sul.

EDC Pulls Out Of Chile Geothermal Project: Energy Development Corp. (EDC) said it will not move on with the Longavi geothermal power project in Chile after completing a technical assessment, according to BNamericas. EDC also pulled out of the 185 MW Calerias geothermal project in Chile in May, giving 100 percent ownership to Australia-based Hot Rock Limited. The company is still involved in projects in Peru.

Inventux Investors From Chile and Argentina: Recently rescued, Berlin-based Inventux Technologies has presented the plans of its new investors. While the names have still not been unveiled, it has been said the buyers come from the mining industry and infrastructure sector in Argentina and Chile.


ON THE HORIZON

Can Renewable Energy Save Patagonia’s Rivers: By early 2012 Chile had only a handful of small solar projects, and the country’s energy establishment’s attitude to solar was almost entirely dismissive. But the change in interest and attitudes – and hard cash invested – has been head-spinningly rapid.

Brazil’s First Algal Biomass Plant: See Algae Technology (SAT) and JB, a leading Brazilian ethanol producer, have agreed to develop Brazil’s first algal biomass plant in Pernambuco, Brazil. The plant represents an investment of around $9.81 million and will occupy 2.5 acres. SAT develops equipment that produces algae on an industrial scale for commercial applications. When complete, this facility will be producing algal biomass from both natural and genetically engineered algal variants.


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