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Latin America Report: Wind Sweeps Brazil's A-3 Power Auctions

Brazil's latest A-3 auction, matching up developers and power purchasers to prepare renewable energy projects to meet the nation's electricity demand by 2016, was a landslide win for wind energy -- but a shutout for solar, which was included in the process for the first time.

More than 58 million MWh were sold for a total of U.S. $7.2 billion, according to the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL). An extra feature of the A-3 auction: developers are responsible for hooking their projects to the grid. The pool of qualified participants had included 429 projects exceeding 10.4 GW, the vast majority of which were wind (381 projects totaling over 9.1 GW) but also some solar PV (31 projects, 813 MW capacity) and some small hydro and biomass.

The overwhelming winners were wind energy developers, who saw 39 wind projects approved totaling 867 MW of capacity, nearly half of them in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. Two-thirds of those purchases were backed by Electrobras subsidiaries Electrosul and Furnas. By the end of this year, Brazil could end up auctioning a record 3 GW of wind.

On the downside, no bids were offered for any solar PV projects, which had been included for the first time. The low pricing (average 124.43 Brazilian reais/MWh, just under the ceiling price of R 126/MWh) had been roundly expected to be too low for solar projects which currently cost more than R 200/MWh. Two solar-friendlier alternatives reportedly are being explored: reducing the price of power on the market, or conduct solar-only auctions with a more applicable pricing structure.


IN THE NEWS

Chilean Solar Plant Updates: SunEdison has closed $100.4 million in debt financing for its proposed 50.7 MWp; San Andres solar plant in Chile, said to become the largest merchant solar plant in Latin America when it comes online in early 2014. Lenders include the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC, $62.9 million), the IFC ($37.5 million), and Rabobank via a Chilean Peso VAT facility equivalent to $25.6 million. Also getting financing help from IFC and others is Saferay to help expand its solar PV plant in La Huayca, Northern Chile from current 1.4 MW to 30 MW. Meanwhile, solar project proposals filed for Chile's Atacama desert include SunEdison's proposed $160 million 80-MW Javiera solar project and a pair of 90-100 MW plants proposed by AustrianSolar totaling $380 million in investments.

IFC Mulling Support for Enel's Big Brazil Wind Plans: At its December 12 board meeting, the International Finance Corp. (IFC) will examine whether to provide up to $200 million in loans, plus possibly arrange another $220 million in bank financing, for Enel Green Power's proposed $600 million plans for 12 wind projects totaling 342 MW in Brazil: roughly 206 MW in Bahia state, 80 MW in Pernambuco, and 56 MW in Rio Grande do Norte.

Canada's Brookfield Investing in South America: Brookfield Asset Management's $7 billion Brookfield Infrastructure Fund II program, which closed at the end of October with over 60 investors (and $2.8 billion of the company's own money), is roughly 40 percent committed to projects in North America, but some of those funds will head to hydro and wind projects in South America. "We like the investment attributes" there, and Brazil's renewable energy industry is "one we know well and in which we can make future investments," Sam Pollock, CEO of Brookfield's infrastructure group, told Bloomberg.

ERB, Dow Team for Brazilian Sugarcane Biomass: Energias Renovaveis do Brasil and Dow Chemical are partnering for a 46-MW, R237 million sugarcane biomass plant at a Dow ethanol facility in Minas Gerais, expected to begin operations next year. The two previously teamed up for a R$210 million cogeneration project in the Bahia state.

IDB Backs Uruguayan Wind Project: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a $132 million loan to partly finance construction of the Carapé I and II wind farms in in the Sierra de Carapé, north of San Carlos in the Maldonado region. The combined 90-MW project using 31 Vestas turbines would generate approximately 364,700 MWh/year, and incorporate a 40-km 150-kV transmission line.

"White Gold" from Brazil's Yellow Sun: Energy Team Brasil plans to build a 40-MW rooftop solar PV array at a dairy farm in Rio Grande do Sul, online by the end of next year, said to be the region's first such agricultural application for solar PV. About three-quarters of available rooftop space will be used for the "Noa Ouro Branco" deployment; 30 MW is promised to be sent to the grid another 10 MW will be off-grid for on-site use.

Solar Partnership in Puerto Rico: Schneider Electric and Fonroche have agreed to develop a 40-MW solar field in Humacao, promised to be the Commonwealth's largest plant upon completion.

70-MW Solar PV Plant Coming to Argentina: Schmid and M+W, with state energy supplier Energia Provincial Sociedad del Estrado (EPSE), have committed to design and build a 70-MW solar PV production facility in San Juan to produce monocrystalline silicon ingots through glass/foil modules starting in mid-2015, targeting use in the region's gold and copper mines and irrigation systems. A second phase will expand into upstream polysilicon manufacturing.


A DEEPER LOOK

The Untapped Potential of South American Geothermal: South America holds great potential for geothermal energy, but barriers to development have kept it largely unrealized. However some private investors and development banks are on the cusp of unlocking the abundant energy source. Our own Meg Cichon takes a closer look at this "open frontier" for geothermal energy development here on this lower end of the Ring of Fire horseshoe.

Tracking Latin America's Clean Energy Investment Climate: Latin America and the Caribbean captured six percent of the total $268 billion invested worldwide in clean energy in 2012, slightly more than the year before, thanks to strengthened government policy support and expanding supply chains, according to Climatescope 2013, a report from the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Their interactive deep-dive and infographics illustrate where each nation stands in four key areas: enabling framework, clean energy investment and climate financing, low-carbon business and clean energy value chains, and greenhouse gas management activities. Among the study's encouraging data points: retail power prices remain generally high across the region which makes deployment of renewables more attractive, and nearly all of identified "value chain" links are filled. There are 927 carbon offset projects across the region, more than half of which are for power generation. And eight countries now have net metering laws.


ON THE HORIZON

Latin American Wind Capacity Doubling in a Decade: Latin America is the hottest growth market for wind energy, and installed capacity will roughly double by 2022 to 4.3 GW, according to a report from Navigant Consulting. Policy and macroeconomic challenges are slowing wind energy adoption in other regions, but Latin America will account for nearly 6 percent of global new wind power installations this year alone, and will "exhibit double-digit compound annual growth rates through the next 10 years," according to research director Feng Zhao. Brazil's latest wind power auctions led to 1.5 GW of new wind capacity and helped stabilize higher prices, he noted, and will provide the foundation for wind energy growth in the entire region.

Pricing Hydro Bids for Brazil's A-5 Auction: The second A-5 auction to be held Dec. 13 has been approved, contracting for renewable energy projects coming online in mid-2018. They include several hydropower projects bigger than 50 MW and priced at around $107-$139/MWh, with smaller ones priced at R 144/MWh.

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Lead image: Gavel on the flag of Brazil, via Shutterstock

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