Since 2006, the solar thermal market in Brazil has shown growth rates above average. And according to some experts, these growth rates will continue during the coming years, despite the global economic crisis.
Brazil has used solar thermal technologies to heat water in domestic households for about 20 years now. The increase in newly installed solar collectors per year has been slow, but stable (see chart below) - with the sole exception of the Brazilian electricity crisis in 2001 that caused the rate of installed collectors to increase to 50 %.
During the last three years, however, the solar thermal market in Brazil grew above average, with annual expansion rates from 22 up to 32 %. 700,000 m2 (490 MWth) of collector area were newly installed last year, according to the Brazilian solar thermal association DASOL/ABRAVA. One of the two major reasons for these installations was the spike in energy prices during the first half of 2008. The second one was the concentrated campaign effort by DASOL/ABRAVA, called Cidades Solares (solar cities). More than 30 cities implemented solar building codes between 2006 and 2008 - among them are big cities such as Sao Paulo.
Newly installed collector area in Brazil Source: DASOL/ABRAVA
Both solar experts and the solar thermal industry are counting on continuously rising sales figures in the coming years. Prospects for Brazil's economy remain positive, despite the crisis of the global economy. Even though Brazil has felt some of the global economic woes in its export trades (especially primary products), the state still possesses enough monetary reserves to support the Brazilian currency (Real) and stimulate demand, e.g., through tax reductions and social housing programmes. The solar thermal industry seems to have enough reason to look optimistically into the future.
Nowadays, mainly private households utilise this kind of energy - about 85 % of the whole collector area installed in Brazil is used by private households. Around 730,000 households heated their water via the sun by the end of 2007, which accounts for 1.5 % of the 55 million Brazilian households.
Only 15 % of the annually installed collector area can be attributed to the industrial and commercial sector. But this sector is seen as gaining importance during the next years.
This text was written by Kerstin Oebels, a student of industrial engineering and environment at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, Germany. The article bases on her thesis about “Risks and barriers for the usage of solar thermal energy in emerging markets like Brazil” (available in German).