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Latin America Report: Mexico Just Scratching the Surface of Solar Demand

With huge swaths of flat desert surfaces and tons of sunlight, Mexico is a prime location for solar power, even though potential financial backers are struggling to adequately understand the advantages of solar PV or risk evaluation.

Prices for solar module prices sunk 30 percent in 2012, and many consumers for years have been paying high rates that make them especially attractive to solar, says Solarplaza. Jinko Solar chief marketing officer Arturo Herrero points to a cyclical bottoming-out of demand and the end of pricing wars, and now predicts strong demand in 2013 to expand to over 1.5 GW. Miguel Medina, general manager of Mexican firm SolarTec, points to a lack of subsidies which has tempered the nation's growth, but also kept it from running out of control as seen in other regions.

Solarbuzz will host a conference later this month in Mexico City.


IN THE NEWS

Jamaica's Solar Industry Receives Major Boost: Jamaica has sunshine all year round, high grid-utility prices, and a heavy trade imbalance with imported energy, all of which should make it a prime pusher of solar energy. A new regulation to enable net metering aims to hoist Jamaica's profile in solar PV -- but the island still has to overcome several hurdles.

Off-Grid CPV Emerging in Latin America: The biggest concentrated solar photovoltaic (CPV) plant on the planet, a 50-MW project in Tecate, Mexico could serve as a model across Latin America. The power offtaker is developer Grupo Musa -- not a utility -- which illustrates how CPV's biggest benefits in this region are to industrial and commercial sectors.

Argentina Suspends WTO Complaint After Spain Ends Biofuels Curbs: Argentina has suspended a trade complaint against the European Union over Spanish biofuel curbs after Spain dropped its plan. A Spanish law issued last April would have required that only EU fuel could meet quotas for biofuels used in transport, which prompted the challenge by Argentina, the world's largest exporter of soybean biodiesel.

Isofoton Eyes 150-MW Solar Power Plant in Mexico: Isofoton reportedly has obtained approval from the Yucatan state to develop a $360 million solar plant with 150-MW capacity.

"North American Consortium" Developing Solar PV Projects in Ecuador: SunWize Technologies, Solexica Energy, JCM Capital, and Radical Energy are developing two solar PV projects in Ecuador totaling 50 MW (AC), and estimated peak capacity of 62.5 MW (AC), to deliver power to 100,000 households in the northern part of the country. Condor Solar (30 MW) and Solarconnection (20 MW) will be built in the Canton Pedro Moncayo region of the Andes Mountains.

Nicaraguan solar plant will light 1100 homes: Nicaragua's largest solar plant will soon inaugurate a 1.38-MW solar plant in La Trinidad, Carazo province, being built by the National Electricity Transmission Company (ENATREL). Japan donated almost all of the $11.9 million for the project. Nicaragua topped 40 percent of renewable energy sourcing in 2012 and aims for 80 percent by 2017 and 90 percent in 2026.

Alstom Snags Wind Turbine Deal in Brazil: Alstom Renewable Power and Renova Energia have signed a memorandum of understanding to build and operate around 440 onshore wind turbines with minimum 1.2 GW of wind power generation capacity, supplying Renova's wind farms in the state of Bahia starting in 2015, at a cost exceeding €1 billion.

Chilean wind farm backer lands funding: Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd., an Irish clean-energy developer, has raised $70 million for a 33- megawatt wind farm in southern Chile. The bulk of that ($52 million) is in a loan from China Development Bank Corp.; the remainder will be funded by Mainstream's own equity. Construction will begin in September with energy sold to the spot market.

"World's cheapest wind energy" developer raising cash: Brazilian developer Bioenergy Geradora de Energia Ltda. plans to issue as much as 250 million reais ($125.7 million) of inflation-linked bonds to finance power projects. The company is seeking a new investor to help build wind farms worth 1.2 billion reais to develop 380 MW of wind farms, most of which have government-auctioned agreements to sell power at 87.77 reais/MWh -- less than half what Germany offers wind developers.

SunEdison, CAP to build solar energy plant in Chile: SunEdison and Chilean mining and steel group CAP aim to construct a 100 MW solar PV power project in the Atacama Desert, to produce up to 15 percent of the mining group's energy needs. : Another Chilean mining company, Atacama Minerals, is seeking to build its own solar plant, an 8.8-MW project costing $20 million in conjunction with Etrion, for its Aguas Blancas iodine mine. A signed PPA is expected by the end of March with operations beginning in 2Q14.

Argentine turbine maker stiffed by Brazil: Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona SA (Impsa), the Argentinean wind-turbine maker says it hasn't been paid by Brazil's state-controlled energy company Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA (Electrobras) for power from a project that began feeding electricity to the grid in June 2011. Impras says it's owed 250 million reais ($125.9 million) for selling electricity from its 222-MW wind farm in the southern state of Santa Catarina. Delays were apparently caused by changes to compensation rules last year from Brazil power regulator Agencia Nacional de Energia Eletrica changed its compensation rules last summer, but the delays are on Electrobras' end, according to an Impsa exec.


ON THE HORIZON

Argentina Prepping for Solar Energy Surge With Incentives, Domestic Credit: Argentina, which along with Venezuela has the least renewable energy in Latin America, is set to expand solar capacity as much as 35-fold as the government plans its first incentives for individual projects, according to Bloomberg. International developers are planning plants in Argentina's western regions, and in the past year they've applied to build 11 projects of about 20 megawatts each. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's administration has an ambitious goal of 8 percent of Argentina's power from renewables by 2016, up from 2 percent now, and is relying on domestic measures to pay for solar amid struggles to lure overseas capital.

700 MW of renewable energy planned for Chile's Northern Grid: CDEC-SING projects 11 new solar PV plants could come online this year totaling 355 MW, plus another 345 MW from two wind projects. That would add nearly 8 percent capacity to the system -- though the group acknowledges project reviews and grid-connection complexities could delay actual commissioning.


A DEEPER LOOK

Mexico's Robust Wind Energy Prospects Ruffle Nearby Villages: A $550 million wind project that opened in Oaxaca in 2009 has helped boost renewable energy in the region but at a cost for the region's farming and fishing communities. Here's a montage of pictures and descriptions describing the impact of the projects, from communities fighting over land lease negotiations to concerns whether the projects neglect power needs in these communities in favor of broader industrial-scale grid power.

Questions, responses about Argentina's first CSP plant: Argentina's first concentrated solar power (CSP) plant is generating a good deal of back-and-forth between critics and supporters. The 20 MW project SolarNoa project north of San Carlos in the Salta province initially came under fire for some questionable details, including unusual references to generation costs, and operating temperatures, and size vs. output, notes CSP Today. The project developer has answered some questions and modified some of those details, but still faces questions about the CSP-specific capabilities of its Chinese designer and the province's stomach to help financially back the project.


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Lead image: Grunge flag of Mexico, via Shutterstock

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