Blog search results for Tag: solar

Sustainability & Environment

As silicon reaches its solar ceiling, perovskite has emerged as one of the main materials of choice in the next generation of solar panels. Indeed, Oxford PV’s much anticipated perovskite-silicon solar cell could take conversion efficiency well beyond what is currently achieved on the roofs of our homes.

The benefits of perovskite are well known at this stage. It could increase the energy we harvest from the sun and improve solar cell efficiency, and its printability could make fabrication cheaper. However, as with almost everything, there are drawbacks.

According to researchers at the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Swansea University, the solvents used to control the crystallisation of the perovskite during fabrication hinder the large-scale manufacture of printed carbon perovskite cells. This is due to the toxicity and potentially psychoactive effects of these materials.

The SPECIFIC team claims to have found a way around this after discovering a non-toxic biodegradable solvent called γ-Valerolactone. They say this replacement solvent could be used without affecting solar cell performance. Furthermore, they say it is non-toxic, sustainable, and suitable for large-scale manufacturing.

SCIblog - 25 May 2021 - Sharpening Solar - image of solvents used to make solar cells, one toxic, one green

Left - solvent normally used to make solar cells, which is toxic.
Right - new green solvent developed by Swansea University researchers from the SPECIFIC project
| Image Credit: Swansea University

‘This solvent problem was a major barrier, not only restricting large-scale manufacture but holding back research in countries where the solvents are banned,’ said research group leader Professor Trystan Watson. ‘We hope our discovery will enable countries that have previously been unable to participate in this research to become part of the community and accelerate the development of cleaner, greener energy.’

As the conversion efficiency of solar panels improves, cost is also key. What if you could create the same solar panels in a more cost-efficient way? That was part of the thinking behind another recent innovation in Singapore, where Maxeon Solar Technologies has created frameless, lightweight rooftop solar panels. These solar panels can be adhered directly to a roof without racking or mounting systems and allegedly perform just as well as standard solar panels.

SCIblog - 25 May 2021 - Sharpening Solar - image of the new Maxeon Air technology platform

The new Maxeon Air technology platform from Maxeon Solar Technologies

‘For close to 50 years, the solar power industry has almost exclusively used glass superstrate panel construction,’ said Jeff Waters, CEO of Maxeon Solar Technologies. ‘As solar panels have increased in size, and the cost of solar cells has been dramatically reduced, the cost of transporting, installing and mounting large glass panels has become a relatively larger portion of total system cost. With Maxeon Air technology, we can now develop products that reduce these costs while opening up completely new market opportunities such as low-load commercial rooftops.’

The idea is to use these peel-and-stick designs on low-load roofs that cannot support the weight of conventional solar systems; and they will be rolled out in 2022. Time will tell whether the innovations in Swansea and Singapore have a bearing on companies’ solar systems, but they provide more evidence of the ingenuity that is making solar power cheaper and more efficient.

Energy

Energy is critical to life. However, we must work to find solution to source sustainable energy which compliments the UK’s emission targets. This article discusses six interesting facts concerning the UK’s diversified energy supply system and the ways it is shifting towards decarbonised alternatives.

Finite Resources

1. In 2015, UK government announced plans to close unabated coal-fired power plants by 2025.

 A coalfired power plant

A coal-fired power plant 

In recent years, energy generation from coal has dropped significantly. In March 2018, Eggborough power station, North Yorkshire, closed, leaving only seven coal power plants operational in the UK. In May this year, Britain set a record by going one week without coal power. This was the first time since 1882!

2. Over 40% of the UK’s electricity supply comes from gas.

 A natural oil and gas production in sea

A natural oil and gas production in sea

While it may be a fossil fuel, natural gas releases less carbon dioxide emissions compared to that of coal and oil upon combustion. However, without mechanisms in place to capture and store said carbon dioxide it is still a carbon intensive energy source.

3. Nuclear power accounts for approximately 8% of UK energy supply.

hazard gif

Originally posted by konczakowski

Nuclear power generation is considered a low-carbon process. In 2025, Hinkley Point C nuclear power-plant is scheduled to open in Somerset. With an electricity generation capacity of 3.2GW, it is considerably bigger than a typical power-plant.

Renewable Resources

In 2018, the total installed capacity of UK renewables increased by 9.7% from the previous year. Out of this, wind power, solar power and plant biomass accounted for 89%.

4. The Irish Sea is home to the world’s largest wind farm, Walney Extension.

 The Walney offshore wind farm

The Walney offshore wind farm.

In addition to this, the UK has the third highest total installed wind capacity across Europe. The World Energy Council define an ‘ideal’ wind farm as one which experiences wind speed of over 6.9 metres per second at a height of 80m above ground. As can be seen in the image below, at 100m, the UK is well suited for wind production.

5. Solar power accounted for 29.5% of total renewable electricity capacity in 2018.

 solar panels

This was an increase of 12% from the previous year (2017) and the highest amount to date! Such growth in solar power can be attributed to considerable technology cost reductions and greater average sunlight hours, which increased by up to 0.6 hours per day in 2018. 

Currently, the intermittent availability of both solar and wind energy means that fossil fuel reserves are required to balance supply and demand as they can run continuously and are easier to control.

6. In 2018, total UK electricity generation from bioenergy accounted for approximately 32% of all renewable generation.

 A biofuel plant in Germany

A biofuel plant in Germany.

This was the largest share of renewable generation per source and increased by 12% from the previous year. As a result of Lynemouth power station, Northumberland, and another unit at Drax, Yorkshire, being converted from fossil fuels to biomass, there was a large increase in plant biomass capacity from 2017.


Science & Innovation

Spaceflight is a high-risk business. Spacecraft break down all the time and when that happens funding and careers evaporate. Back in the late 1960s, NASA decided to double the odds of success and send two spacecraft on one mission. Voyagers 1 and 2, for example, were the spacecraft that returned the first detailed pictures of the outer planets of our solar system and introduced us to the neighbourhood. Launched in 1977, both are still flying.

Any spacecraft must have three components: a payload, an engine and a fuel supply – by far the heaviest component. But what if we could do away with the onboard fuel supply and replace it with an external fuel supply? Say light itself?

Can you push a spacecraft with light? Video: Physics Girl

The idea of solar sail technology has been floating around for decades. Indeed, the notion of a solar pressure can be traced back to 1610 in a letter that Johannes Kepler wrote to Galileo. 

But it was only in the 20th century that solar sails began to be considered as an achievable engineering reality. Broadly, solar sails fall into two categories: those using light from natural sources – the sun and ambient starlight in space; and those using coherent light from lasers.

 

Sustainability & Environment

Transparent solar cells that can convert invisible light wavelengths into renewable energy could supply 40% of the US’ energy demand, a Michigan State University (MSU) engineering team have reported.

In contrast to the robust, opaque solar panels that take up a large amount of space – whether on rooftops or on designated solar farms – the transparent solar cells can be placed on existing surfaces, such as windows, buildings, phones, and any other object with a clear surface.

 Traditional solar panels

Traditional solar panels require large amounts of space. 

‘Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar cell applications,’ says Richard Lunt, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU.

‘We analysed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles, and mobile electronics.’

 the sun

Solar, or photovoltaic, cells convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Image: Pixabay

Currently, the cells are running at 5% efficiency, says the team, compared to traditional solar panels that have recorded efficiencies between 15-18%. Lunt believes that with further research, the capability of the transparent cells could increase three-fold.

‘That is what we are working towards,’ says Lunt. ‘Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years.’

 apple iphone

The cells can be added to any existing transparent surface, including mobile phones. Image: Max Pixel

While solar panels may be more efficient at converting energy than the group’s transparent cells, Lunt says that the latter can be easily applied to more surfaces and therefore a larger surface area, increasing the overall amount of energy produced by the cells.

‘Ultimately,’ he says, ‘this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.’

Transparent solar cells. Video: Michigan State University

Together, and with further work on its efficiency, the authors of the paper believe that their see-through cells and traditional solar panels could fulfil the US’ energy needs.

‘The complimentary deployment of both technologies could get us close to 100% of our demand if we also improve energy storage,’ Lunt says.


Energy

Renewables outstripped coal power for the first time in electricity generation in Europe in 2017, according to a new report. The European Power Sector in 2017 – by think-tanks Sandbag and Agora Energiewende – predicts renewables could provide half of Europe’s electricity by 2030.

Wind, solar and biomass generation collectively rose by 12% in 2017 – to 679 Terawatt hours  – generating 21% of Europe’s electricity and contributing to 30% of the energy mix. ‘This is incredible progress considering just five years ago coal generation was more than twice that of wind, solar and biomass,’ the report says.

image

Hydroelectric power is the most popular renewable energy source worldwide. Image: PxHere

However, growth is variable. The UK and Germany alone contributed to 56% of the expansion in the past three years. There is also a ‘bias’ for wind, with a 19% increase in 2017, due to good wind conditions and huge investments, the report says. 

‘This is good news now the biomass boom is over, but bad news in that solar was responsible for just 14% of the renewables growth in 2014 to 2017.’

New analysis by trade group WindEurope backs up the findings on wind power, showing that countries across Europe installed more offshore capacity than ever before: 3.14GW. This corresponds to 560 new offshore wind turbines across 17 wind farms. Fourteen projects were fully completed and connected to the grid, including the first floating offshore wind farm. Europe now has a total installed offshore wind capacity of 15.78GW.

The EU’s 2030 goals for climate and energy. Video: European Commission 

Germany remains top of the European league, with the largest total installed wind-power capacity; worth 42% of the EU’s new capacity in 2017, followed by Spain, the UK, and France. Denmark boasts the largest share of wind in its power mix at 44% of electricity demand.

Energy

Determining the efficacy of organic solar cell mixtures is a time-consuming and tired practice, relying on post-manufacturing analysis to find the most effective combination of materials.

Now, an international group of researchers – from North Carolina State University in the US and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology – have developed a new quantitative approach that can identify effective mixtures quickly and before the cell goes through production.

 thinfilm solar cell

Development of a thin-film solar cell. Image: science photo/Shutterstock

By using the solubility limit of a system as a parameter, the group looked to find the processing temperature providing the optimum performance and largest processing window for the system, said Harald Ade, co-corresponding author and Professor of Physics at NC State.

‘Forces between molecules within a solar cell’s layers govern how much they will mix – if they are very interactive they will mix but if they are repulsive they won’t,’ he said. ‘Efficient solar cells are a delicate balance. If the domains mix too much or too little, the charges can’t separate or be harvested effectively.’

tea gif

Originally posted by itadakimasu-letmeeat

‘We know that attraction and repulsion depend on temperature, much like sugar dissolving in coffee – the saturation, or maximum mixing of the sugar with the coffee, improves as the temperature increases. We figured out the saturation level of the ‘sugar in the coffee’ as a function of temperature,’ he said.

Organic solar cells are a type of photovoltaic –  which convert energy from the sun into electrons – that uses organic electronics to generate electricity. This type of cell can be produced cheaply, and is both lightweight and flexible, making it a popular option for use in solar panels.

 Photovoltaic systems

Photovoltaic systems are made up of organic solar cells that convert sunlight into energy. Image: Pxhere

However, difficulties in the production process, including an effective process to determine efficiency of potential material combinations, is stalling its development.

‘In the past, people mainly studied this parameter in systems at room temperature using crude approximations,’ said Long Ye, first author and postdoctoral researcher at NC State. ‘They couldn’t measure it with precision and at temperatures corresponding to processing conditions, which are much hotter.’

Faces of Chemistry: Organic solar cells at BASF. Video: Royal Society of Chemistry

‘The ability to measure and model this parameter will also offer valuable lessons about processing and not just material pairs.’

But the process still needs refinement, said Ade. ‘Our ultimate goal is to form a framework and experimental basis on which chemical structural variation might be evaluated by simulations on the computer before laborious synthesis is attempted,’ he said.

Energy

Determining the efficacy of organic solar cell mixtures is a time-consuming and tired practice, relying on post-manufacturing analysis to find the most effective combination of materials.

Now, an international group of researchers – from North Carolina State University in the US and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology – have developed a new quantitative approach that can identify effective mixtures quickly and before the cell goes through production.

 thinfilm solar cell

Development of a thin-film solar cell. Image: science photo/Shutterstock

By using the solubility limit of a system as a parameter, the group looked to find the processing temperature providing the optimum performance and largest processing window for the system, said Harald Ade, co-corresponding author and Professor of Physics at NC State.

‘Forces between molecules within a solar cell’s layers govern how much they will mix – if they are very interactive they will mix but if they are repulsive they won’t,’ he said. ‘Efficient solar cells are a delicate balance. If the domains mix too much or too little, the charges can’t separate or be harvested effectively.’

tea gif

Originally posted by itadakimasu-letmeeat

‘We know that attraction and repulsion depend on temperature, much like sugar dissolving in coffee – the saturation, or maximum mixing of the sugar with the coffee, improves as the temperature increases. We figured out the saturation level of the ‘sugar in the coffee’ as a function of temperature,’ he said.

Organic solar cells are a type of photovoltaic –  which convert energy from the sun into electrons – that uses organic electronics to generate electricity. This type of cell can be produced cheaply, and is both lightweight and flexible, making it a popular option for use in solar panels.

 Photovoltaic systems

Photovoltaic systems are made up of organic solar cells that convert sunlight into energy. Image: Pxhere

However, difficulties in the production process, including an effective process to determine efficiency of potential material combinations, is stalling its development.

‘In the past, people mainly studied this parameter in systems at room temperature using crude approximations,’ said Long Ye, first author and postdoctoral researcher at NC State. ‘They couldn’t measure it with precision and at temperatures corresponding to processing conditions, which are much hotter.’

Faces of Chemistry: Organic solar cells at BASF. Video: Royal Society of Chemistry

‘The ability to measure and model this parameter will also offer valuable lessons about processing and not just material pairs.’

But the process still needs refinement, said Ade. ‘Our ultimate goal is to form a framework and experimental basis on which chemical structural variation might be evaluated by simulations on the computer before laborious synthesis is attempted,’ he said.

Energy

Installing new energy infrastructure on the Isles of Scilly, UK, is a tricky proposition, given the islands’ location 28 miles off the Cornish coast, and a population of just 2,500 to share the high costs. 

But an exciting new project is about to transform the islands’ energy provision, reducing energy costs and supporting clean growth, through the use of a smart energy grid.

By 2025, the Smart Islands programme aims to provide the Isles of Scilly with 40% of its electricity from renewables, cut Scillonians’ electricity bills by 40%, and revolutionise transport, with 40% of cars to be electric or low-carbon. The key to this will be an integrated smart energy system, operated by a local community energy services company and monitored through an Internet of Things platform.

 Local Growth Fund

In the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, published in November 2017, it was announced that the Local Growth Fund would provide £2.95m funding to the project, via the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

The project will be led by Hitachi Europe Ltd in a public-private partnership, along with UK-based smart energy technology company Moixa, and smart energy software company PassivSystems.

 

Colin Calder, CEO of PassivSystems, explained, ‘Our scalable cloud-based energy management platform will be integrated with a range of domestic and commercial renewable technologies, allowing islanders to reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels, increase energy independence and lower their carbon footprint.

‘These technologies have the potential to significantly increase savings from solar PV systems.’

Aiming to increase the renewable capacity installed on the island by 450kW and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 897 tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum, 100 homes on the islands (a tenth of the total) will be fitted with rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, and two 50kW solar gardens will also be built.

100 homes will also get energy management systems, and 10 of them will pilot a variety of additional smart energy technologies such as smart batteries and air source heat pumps.

 

Chris Wright, Moixa Chief Technology Officer, said: ‘Ordinary people will play a key role in our future energy system. Home batteries and electric vehicles controlled by smart software will help create a reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon energy system that will deliver savings to homeowners and the community.

‘Our systems will support the reduction of fuel poverty on the Scilly Isles and support their path to full energy independence. They will be scalable and flexible so they can be replicated easily to allow communities all over the world to cut carbon and benefit from the smart power revolution.’

The burgeoning smart energy industry is attracting serious investment – only this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced it will invest up to £8.8 million in new ideas for products and services that use smart meter data to reduce energy demand in small, non-domestic buildings; while Manchester-based smart energy start-up Upside Energy this week announced it had secured £5.5m in its first round of venture capital financing to commercialise and deploy its cloud-based smart grid platform.

Smart energy covers a range of technologies intended to allow both companies and households to increase their energy efficiency. Smart meters are currently being offered by energy suppliers, with the aim of allowing energy companies to automatically manage consumer energy use to reduce bills, for example, running your washing machine when energy demand (and therefore cost) is low. 

Battery technology also plays a major role in smart energy, allowing users to store renewable power and potentially even sell back into the grid as demand requires. In the Industrial Strategy, the government announced a new £80m National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility (NBMD) in Coventry, which will bring together academics and businesses to work on new forms and designs of batteries, as well as their chemistry and components. 

 Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly’s small population and remote access issues make it an interesting candidate for a smart energy project. Image: NASA, International Space Station Science

The funding for this and a further £40m investment into 27 individual battery research projects have been allocated from the £246m Faraday Challenge, which was announced in July.

The Smart Islands project promises a real-world demonstration of how a community can harness the power of the Internet of Things to maintain an efficient, inexpensive, and clean energy system. 

Energy

Installing new energy infrastructure on the Isles of Scilly, UK, is a tricky proposition, given the islands’ location 28 miles off the Cornish coast, and a population of just 2,500 to share the high costs. 

But an exciting new project is about to transform the islands’ energy provision, reducing energy costs and supporting clean growth, through the use of a smart energy grid.

By 2025, the Smart Islands programme aims to provide the Isles of Scilly with 40% of its electricity from renewables, cut Scillonians’ electricity bills by 40%, and revolutionise transport, with 40% of cars to be electric or low-carbon. The key to this will be an integrated smart energy system, operated by a local community energy services company and monitored through an Internet of Things platform.

 Local Growth Fund

In the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, published in November 2017, it was announced that the Local Growth Fund would provide £2.95m funding to the project, via the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

The project will be led by Hitachi Europe Ltd in a public-private partnership, along with UK-based smart energy technology company Moixa, and smart energy software company PassivSystems.

 

Colin Calder, CEO of PassivSystems, explained, ‘Our scalable cloud-based energy management platform will be integrated with a range of domestic and commercial renewable technologies, allowing islanders to reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels, increase energy independence and lower their carbon footprint.

‘These technologies have the potential to significantly increase savings from solar PV systems.’

Aiming to increase the renewable capacity installed on the island by 450kW and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 897 tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum, 100 homes on the islands (a tenth of the total) will be fitted with rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, and two 50kW solar gardens will also be built.

100 homes will also get energy management systems, and 10 of them will pilot a variety of additional smart energy technologies such as smart batteries and air source heat pumps.

 

Chris Wright, Moixa Chief Technology Officer, said: ‘Ordinary people will play a key role in our future energy system. Home batteries and electric vehicles controlled by smart software will help create a reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon energy system that will deliver savings to homeowners and the community.

‘Our systems will support the reduction of fuel poverty on the Scilly Isles and support their path to full energy independence. They will be scalable and flexible so they can be replicated easily to allow communities all over the world to cut carbon and benefit from the smart power revolution.’

The burgeoning smart energy industry is attracting serious investment – only this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced it will invest up to £8.8 million in new ideas for products and services that use smart meter data to reduce energy demand in small, non-domestic buildings; while Manchester-based smart energy start-up Upside Energy this week announced it had secured £5.5m in its first round of venture capital financing to commercialise and deploy its cloud-based smart grid platform.

Smart energy covers a range of technologies intended to allow both companies and households to increase their energy efficiency. Smart meters are currently being offered by energy suppliers, with the aim of allowing energy companies to automatically manage consumer energy use to reduce bills, for example, running your washing machine when energy demand (and therefore cost) is low. 

Battery technology also plays a major role in smart energy, allowing users to store renewable power and potentially even sell back into the grid as demand requires. In the Industrial Strategy, the government announced a new £80m National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility (NBMD) in Coventry, which will bring together academics and businesses to work on new forms and designs of batteries, as well as their chemistry and components. 

 Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly’s small population and remote access issues make it an interesting candidate for a smart energy project. Image: NASA, International Space Station Science

The funding for this and a further £40m investment into 27 individual battery research projects have been allocated from the £246m Faraday Challenge, which was announced in July.

The Smart Islands project promises a real-world demonstration of how a community can harness the power of the Internet of Things to maintain an efficient, inexpensive, and clean energy system. 

Energy

Compared with other renewable energy resources – take solar or wind power as examples – tidal energy is still in the first stages of commercial development. But as the world moves towards a greener economy, tidal power is becoming more in demand in the competitive renewables market.

Currently, the very few tidal power plants in the world are based in Canada, China, France, Russia, South Korea, and the UK, although more are in development. Experts predict that tidal power has the potential to generate 700TWh annually, which is almost a third of the UK’s total energy consumption.


How does it work?

Tidal energy is produced by the natural movement of ocean waves during the rise and fall of tides throughout the day. Generally, generating tidal energy is easier in regions with a higher tidal range – the difference between high tide, when the water level has risen, and low tide, when levels have fallen. These levels are influenced by the moon’s gravitational pull.

 The moons gravitational pull

The moon’s gravitational pull is responsible for the rise and fall of tides. Image: Public Domain Pictures

We are able to produce energy from this process using tidal power generators. These generators work similarly to wind turbines by drawing energy from the currents of water, and are either completely or partially submerged in water.

One advantage of tidal power generators is that water is denser than air, meaning that an individual tidal turbine can generate more power than a wind turbine, even at low currents. Tides are also predictable, with researchers arguing that it is tidal power is potentially a more reliable renewable energy source.

What is tidal power and how does it work? Video: Student Energy

There are three types of tidal energy systems: barrages, tidal streams, and tidal lagoons. Tidal barrages are structured similar to dams and generate power from river or bay tides. They are the oldest form of tidal power generation, dating back to the 1960s.

However, there is a common concern that generators and barrages can damage the environment, despite producing green energy. By creating facilities to generate energy, tidal power centres can affect the surrounding areas, leading to problems with land use and natural habitats.

 Fleet tidal lagoon in Dorset

Fleet tidal lagoon in Dorset, UK. Image: Geograph

Since then, technologies in tidal streams and lagoons have appeared, which work in the same fashion as barrages but have the advantage of being able to be built into the natural coastline – reducing the environmental impact often caused by the construction of barrages and generators.

However, there are no current large-scale projects with these two systems, and output is expected to be low, presenting a challenge to compete with more cost-effective renewable technologies.

Sustainability & Environment

Latin America is setting the pace in clean energy, led by Brazil and Mexico. Renewables account for more than half of electricity generation in Latin America and the Caribbean – compared with a world average of about 22% – according to the International Energy Agency. 

Brazil is one of the world’s leading producers of hydropower, while Mexico is a leader in geothermal power. Smaller countries in the region are also taking a lead. In Costa Rica, about 99% of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources, while in Uruguay the proportion is close to 95%.

 The Itaipu hydroelectric dam

The Itaipu hydroelectric dam, on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, generated 89.5TWh of energy in 2015. Image: Deni Williams

At the same time, countries such as Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina have adjusted their regulations to encourage alternative energy without having to offer subsidies. Some have held auctions for generation contracts purely for renewables.   

Latin America’s renewable energy production is dominated by an abundance of hydropower, but there is strong growth potential for other sources of renewable energy. Wind and solar power are expected to account for about 37% of the region’s electricity generation by 2040, compared with current levels of about 4%, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). 

Total electricity generation in Latin America is forecast to grow by 66% by 2040, and renewable energy is expected to account for the vast majority of the new capacity. While Brazil has significant solar water heating, solar PV is virtually non-existent. But consumer-driven rooftop PV is expected to account for 20% of Brazil’s electricity generation by 2040, it says. This compares with an expected 24% in the leading country, Australia, followed by 15% in Germany and 12% in Japan. Meanwhile, in Mexico, solar is forecast to overtake gas and hydro to dominate Mexico’s capacity mix.

Brazil is the world’s third largest producer of renewable power, after China and the US, and has the world’s second largest hydropower capacity, after China, according to a report issued by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). Brazil also ranks fourth in terms of bio-power generation - after the US, China and Germany - and fifth in terms of solar water heating collector capacity. 

Rio do Fogo wind farm

Rio do Fogo wind farm, Brazil. Image: The Danish Wind Industry

Short-term decline

However, the recent economic downturn in Brazil, combined with declining electricity demand, has dampened growth in investments in renewable power in the country in the short-term. Although substantial hydropower capacity was commissioned in Brazil in 2016, the country’s renewable energy auction scheduled for 2016 was cancelled, and many projects awarded contracts in tenders through 2015 were stalled. 

In the wind power sector, a shift is expected away from Brazil to other countries in the region. The unstable politic and economic climate in Brazil coincides with unprecedented auction activity in Mexico, Argentina and Chile, says Make Consulting, part of Wood Mackenzie. It expects more than 47GW of new wind power capacity to be commissioned in Latin America by 2026. But following the cancellation of Brazil’s reserve power auction planned for 2016, wind power installations in Brazil in 2019 are expected to be half the size of 2014 and 2016.