It has been one year since FUCO (Fábrica Uruguaya de Colectores Solares Planos) started its production of flat plate collectors in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Right now, the monthly output is at 800 m² and can be increased if necessary, says Director Daniel Sztern. Sztern is also Director of Enviro Consultores, a consulting company carrying out environmental studies and overseeing project development. Following a two-year study by Enviro about sustainable energy sources in Uruguay, Sztern decided to establish a factory for flat plate solar thermal collectors in the country.
The FUCO collectors are 2 m² in size and the company guarantees that they maintain their full efficiency over 10 years. FUCO imports the absorber sheets, whose coating consists of a highly selective cermet material, from Europe and produces its own absorbers by ultrasonic welding. In fact, the production of absorber fins could supersede the production of collectors.
Chilean manufacturer Britec, which holds 9 % of FUCO, contributed the expertise and its engineers helped setting up the new production line. FUCO has been around for one year now. After the first five months, the company was able to finally start production.
“Our manufacturing lines are basically the same. This means that we can trade parts when necessary. Or, we can work together to complete large orders or offer a better collector quality if the project requires it,” says Javier Ferrada Gallardo from Britec. One major difference between both products is that Britec uses absorbers coated with a selective paint.
According to Sztern, the new factory in Uruguay is not a direct result of the Solar Plan, which the Uruguayan government launched earlier this year. “We bank on the whole region, not only on the country of Uruguay,” he says.
So far, Sztern has not found that the Plan Solar had much effect, “but the expectations are huge”. A solar publicity campaign on TV was relaunched in early November 2012. According to the Solar Plan, 2000 end consumers who buy a solar system will get a monthly rebate of Uruguayan Peso (UYU) 700, meaning EUR 28, on their electricity bill for twenty-four months, which is around 11 % of the costs for a commonly used solar thermal system. In addition, the customers will have access to a low-interest loan. As Sztern points out, additional support for construction companies which invest in solar thermal would be a big improvement to the programme.