The adoption of solar energy is still underdeveloped in Brazil, but new investments and remarkable weather conditions might result in a growing use of this source.
Being a country with tropical weather, Brazil does not have well defined seasons; temperatures are usually above 20º Celsius and there is a high incidence of solar rays on the national territory as a whole.
Yet, this renewable source of energy only corresponds to a small share of energy production. Whilst Brazil has the capacity to generate more than 86 gigawatts through hydroelectricity, only 2,2 gigawatts can be generated from solar and wind power combined.
Potential and Conditions
Weather conditions seem to favor the use of sunlight. In some regions, like in the Northeast, for example, levels of solar radiation and the average duration of insolation periods are higher.
Among the regions that have the most potential to generate power from solar energy are inland areas in states like Piauí, Bahia, Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte, as well as more coastal areas of Ceará.
According to data from Instituto Vitae Civilis, Brazil could receive 1013 MWh (megawatt hour) from solar radiation. In one year, this amount would correspond to 50.000 times the annual electricity consumption in the country.
Additionally, Brazil also have other favorable conditions, such as large reserves of quartz. This material is used during the manufacturing process of solar cells and panels. However, there is a lack of equipment to transform sunrays in other sources of power and solar plants are practically non existent.
Use in Brazil
There are essentially two practical applications of solar energy in Brazil:
- Photovoltaic solar energy, which is the direct conversion of sunrays into electricity through the use of solar cells
- Thermal energy which is mainly used in water heating systems
When compared to other sources of electricity, the use of solar power is practically irrelevant. The most recent data from the Brazilian Ministry of Energy shows that this source installed generation capacity is only 8 megawatts, nearly nothing close to the national capacity of 120,9 gigawatts.
The use of solar power to generate thermal energy is more commonly used in regions with less access to other forms of power. Isolated rural communities have in solar power a viable way to obtain energy and to heat water used in showers, for example.
There is a high expectation that countries will make wider use of renewable sources of energy instead of the non-renewable ones. Brazil, particularly, has an advantage at this point, since its largest source of electricity is generated by hydroelectric plants.
But solar power itself might gain more space in the country’s energy matrix. At least that is what the upcoming investments in this sector leads to.
The first public bidding to exclusively hire companies investing in the construction of solar power plants took place in November 2014. The Spanish group ACS won the auction and will build and operate nine plants in São Paulo; the expectation is that this USD 507 million investment will lead to a generation of at least 500 megawatts.
Before this auction, public biddings involving this sector involved other sources of renewable energy. As a result, most companies prefered to invest in other forms of energy and disregarded the potential of solar power.