Solar samba. Latin America’s electric heat

Published on Tuesday, 19 July 2016

On August 5th, at the Maracaná stadium, the lighting of the torch will start off the 31st Olympic games, the first ever held in South America.  At the same time, on the other side of the country, the panels of Enel’s Fontes Solar plant will convert the sun’s rays into electricity. This electricity will help power a number of Olympic facilities in which thousands of athletes from more than 200 countries will compete.

According to the latest data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar photovoltaic is the technology that has provided the highest amount of electricity to the grid in the first half of 2016. It’s not by chance that Enel – which has allocated more than 50 percent of the investments defined in the 2015-2019 Strategic Plan to renewable energy and grids – is increasingly focusing on developing this technology, currently implemented in four continents with a total installed capacity of around 500 MW.

In particular Brazil – whose renewable share in the electricity generation mix exceeds 80 percent – offers ideal conditions due to the great abundance of annual solar radiation. This is why Enel, a global leader in this industry, has decided to add two large-scale new projects to the 11 MW already online at Fontes Solar. After the Ituverava facility (which once completed will achieve an installed capacity of 254 MW) we recently started construction works for the Nova Olinda park,  whose 292 MW will turn it into Enel’s largest solar plant in the world and the largest in Latin America.

“The start of building work at Nova Olinda is a further advance for Enel in Brazil, confirming our solar leadership in this country”, commented Enel’s Country Manager in Brazil Carlo Zorzoli. “The Brazilian government has implemented an interesting and well-structured auction process, and our success is based on our technological edge, solid financing ability and excellent reputation for stakeholder involvement. We intend to continue investing to grow in the country’s energy sector”.

Brazil, where we also produce 401 MW of installed capacity from wind power and 133 MW from hydropower, is not the only country in which solar technology has a great opportunity for development. Further west, in the Atacama desert in Chile, we have built two huge solar parks: Finis Terrae (160 MW) and Carrera Pinto (97 MW). The Atacama desert is one of the main areas used for testing by space agencies planning journeys to Mars, due to its morphological conditions, similar to those of the Red Planet and found nowhere else on Earth.

This makes it an ideal destination for scientists, but also for electricity generation, by  harnessing the over 2,700 annual hours of exposure and the radiation intensity exceeding that of the Sahara desert. With humidity percentages close to zero, being totally arid and with vast areas without any form of life, before the 1971 rains not a drop of water had fallen on the Atacama desert in 400 year.