It seems everyone around the world has got the solar bug. Many countries are busy investing large amounts of capital in the clean energies of the future. One area where renewables are starting to show a considerable growth is Latin America, particularly in countries such as Argentina.
With the cost of solar coming down over the last ten years and new players such as China playing a bigger role on the green energy landscape, it’s no surprise that almost every day we appear to be getting news of another solar farm construction.
The 300MW project planned at Jujuy in the north of Argentina is set to go into construction shortly at a cost of a little over US$400 million. The Cauchari solar plant will consist of three 100MW sites and is 80% owned by government run energy company Jemse SE, with a 20% stake held by the Shanghai Electric and Talesun, which is also has the contract to build it.
This highlights the continuing trend of Chinese companies taking some role or stake in energy projects all around the world (they also have a share in the much derided Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant here in the UK).
Argentina is thought to be moving well ahead of its Latin American counterparts in the development of renewable energy and has made a promise to ensure that 20% of its power will come from these sources by 2025. It’s even declared 2017 as Renewable Energy Year to help promote technologies such as solar, wind and hydro-electric and widen the public debate.
The country is hoping to achieve their energy goal by holding several auctions for contracts, all this with the hope of achieving at least 10GW of renewables by the 2025 deadline. This development has been run in conjunction with the International Finance Corporation which is part of the World Bank Group. After the first auctions were carried out, the IFC commented:
“The first renewable-energy auction, which aimed to attract 1,000 megawatts worth of new projects, ended up with bids for more than six times that amount—a signal of confidence from local and international developers. Ultimately, after two rounds of bidding, more than 2,400 megawatts were awarded, primarily to wind and solar projects.”
This relationship has inevitably led to the Cuachari plant going into full scale construction this year and could open the door for many other renewable energy projects over the next few years.
Apart from solar, Argentina has great potential for wind power but has, to date, neglected this area with only about 279 MW currently installed. According to Wind Power Monthly, the country could manage to leverage at least 10 times this amount. Indeed, a new auction is on the horizon to help create another 550 MW of wind energy, something that the World Bank itself is backing with a $250 million guarantee.
There’s no doubt that the future of Argentina when it comes to renewables looks bright. The 300 MW Cauchari plant is set to come on line within the next few years and will undoubtedly transform the country’s potential to become the region’s biggest low carbon economy. Whether other Latin American countries follow their example, remains to be seen.