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Latin America Report: Canadian-Led Consortium Taps Solar Power from Ecuador

A consortium of renewable energy developers led by Canadian firms Solexica Energy Corp., JCM Capital, and Radical Energy Inc. has signed a 20-year concession agreement with CONELEC (Consejo Nacional de Electricidad) to purchase electricity generated by solar power plants in the Republic of Ecuador. Power from the plants, a combined generation of 62.5-megawatt-peak (50-MW AC), will be purchased at US 40.03 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and distributed to the national electric grid.

Radical Energy has been developing the Condor (30 MW) and Solarconnection (20 MW) projects in the Tabacundo region of Ecuador, which are planned to produce 106 GWh of electricity in the first year combined. (That's enough to power 100,000 households in the Ecuadorian Andes mountain region, which is famous for its rose cultivation, the company notes.) Construction is expected to begin in the middle of 2013 and be completed in 6-10 months -- bringing over USD $200 million in investment to the local economy and generating 500 jobs, mostly temporary construction. Japanese corporation Mitsui and its American subsidiary Sunwize were recently added to the consortium as private equity partners.

The projects will be one of Latin America's largest construction-ready solar PV facilities that are based on a feed-in tariff, in this case CONELEC's FiT policy enacted in early 2011. They are expected to bring over US $200 million to the local economy and over 400 (construction) jobs.


IN THE NEWS

Chile Approves 3.1 GW of Solar PV Projects: The Centro de Energías Renovables (CER) says that over 3.1 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy projects were approved in 2012 through November, and another 908 megawatts (MW) were in qualification awaiting approval. For all renewable energy projects in Chile (hydro, wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal), the CER counts 6.7 GW of approved renewable energy projects and another 3.8 GW in the wings. Roughly 1.27 GW spanning 10 projects was added in November, an increase of 530 MW over the previous month. Over 10.5 GW of projects are approved or under assessment, vs. 880 MW in operation and 281 MW under construction.

Droughts Causing Concern for Brazilian Hydro Producers: An extended drought has Brazilian officials worried about the country's ability to meet consumer energy demand with hydroelectric resources. Brazil's hot, dry summer is depriving hydropower plants of water, straining the available power supply and causing fear that the country will face its first widespread energy rationing since 2001. Brazil's national electrical system operator ONS said reservoirs in the northeast are at 31.61% capacity, while those in the north region are at 41.24%; the Brazilian Association of Independent Power Producers, Alpine, said reservoirs for hydroelectric plants in the southeast and midwest are at 28.9%, just 0.8% above its risk aversion curve which quantifies the minimum levels required to meet demand at full load.

E-CL to Build SunEdison's 2-MW El Águila Solar Plant: E-CL, the main generation company of Norte Grande (Great North of Chile), has signed an EPC contract with SunEdison for the company's 2-MW El Águila plant near Arica. The project, born from an alliance between E-CL and Chilean boron processor Quiborax, will begin operations in early 2013; its 2-MWW output equals 5 percent of the required capacity for the nearby city of Arica, and annual generation of 5 GWh enough to power 2,300 families in the region.

Phase II Expansion at Nicaragua Geothermal Project Begins Operation: Ram Power says it has begun commercial operation of its newly completed Phase II expansion of the San Jacinto-Tizate geothermal project. The 72-MW (net) San Jacinto Project broke ground in December of 2009, and replaces the original 10-MW geothermal power plant installed in 2007. The 9,800 acre San Jacinto-Tizate geothermal area is considered by geothermal industry experts to be one of the most productive volcanic reservoirs in Latin America. This project will generate approximately 17% of Nicaragua's total electricity needs, helping Nicaragua to meet its 2013 goal of providing 50% of its total electric energy from renewable sources.

GDF Buys Brazilian Wind Developer: Tractebel Energia, the Brazilian subsidiary of French power giant GDF Suez, has agreed to buy wind developer CLWP Brasil for about $11 million. CLWP's seven project companies are developing a collective 206-MW project portfolio in the municipalities of Umburanas and Sento Sé Tractebel Energia also reportedly is in the process of acquiring another 150-MW of projects being developed by CLWP in the same region.


ON THE HORIZON

Latin America and Caribbean PV Demand Growing 45% Annually to 2017: Demand for solar photovoltaic (PV) energy across Latin America and the Caribbean is poised for explosive growth through 2017, with a forecasted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45%, according to NPD Solarbuzz. Historically, PV demand was confined to rural off-grid and niche applications, but new renewable energy policies and incentive programs -- set against a backdrop of strong economic growth, expanding energy demand, and increasing electricity prices -- are now opening up the region for strong PV deployment.

Decision Coming for 1.7-GW Santa Cruz Hydroelectric Projects: Argentina's government will select from a pool of five international consortia for the construction of the 1.14-MW Presidente Nestor Kirchner and 600-MW Gobernador Jorge Cerpernic hydroelectric projects. (The country previously pre-qualified groups for the US$5 billion project in 2008 and 2010, though the process was annulled both times due to the international financial crisis.) Planning Minister Julio De Vido said the winning consortium will be selected within 60 days with contracts signed a month later; construction could begin as soon as June.

Eletrobras to Boost Brazil's Wind Capacity by 30% in 2013: Brazil's federal power holding company Eletrobras will launch a total 535.1 MW in wind power projects next year, increasing by 30% the country's total wind energy generation capacity. All wind projects but one are in the Northeast states of Rio Grande do Norte and Bahia. Brazil's wind energy installed capacity currently stands at 1.800 GW, or 1.5% of total generation capacity.

Chile Launching Bidding Process for CSP Project: Speaking at the inauguration of the 1.2 MW Tambo Real solar plant, the first project of its kind in energy to connected to the nation's central grid (SIC), Chile's Minister of Energy Jorge Bunster welcomed international bidders in Latin America's first concentrated solar power (CSP) project. The goal is nearly $400 million in funds and loans, from the State of Chile and various international sources including the Clean Technology Fund (CTF).


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Lead image: Ecuador coat of arms, via Flickr

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