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Feature: Advancing tech, spiralling energy costs spur solar power in Brazil
Last Updated: 2018-10-23 14:23 | Xinhua
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Brazil's sun-drenched landscape has made the South American nation one of the world's best locations for solar energy production.

As the industry continues to boom, it is fast becoming one of the country's most profitable businesses.

Growth in solar energy has been spurred in part by increasing drought that drove up the price of power in a country that gets 80 percent of its electricity from hydropower.

Demand for energy diversification has swelled, with many consumers opting for solar energy.

According to the Brazilian Association of Photovoltaic Solar Energy (Absolar), in 2016, Brazil had 2,700 solar energy generation systems installed. By 2017, the number had risen to 7,000. Today, there are almost 40,000 solar power systems.

The association forecasts an increase of 300 percent in the use of solar energy this year.

The economic potential of the solar industry appears to be huge, with the Brazilian government estimating that the market will generate some 100 billion reals (around 27 billion U.S. dollars) by 2030.

According to meteorological institutes, a city like Rio de Janeiro sees 1.7 megawatts of solar rays per square meter per year, enough to supply a shower with an hour of hot water each day.

Meanwhile, progress in technology is making solar panels more accessible, a factor that is also propelling the industry's rapid growth.

Eloi Naval, director of the Brazilian solar energy company Solartop, told Xinhua that technology costs have dropped dramatically in recent years.

A solar energy project that would have cost between 150,000 and 200,000 reals (40,000 and 54,000 dollars) five years ago, today costs around 30,000 reals (8,100 dollars), he said.

This has led the company, which installs solar panels, to see demand grow.

"The market is changing very rapidly," Naval said.

"Many companies, as well as home owners, see solar energy as a way to cut costs. And during a period of crisis like the one Brazil is experiencing, cutting costs means higher profits, which is very interesting to any company," he added.

Naval calculated that any home or company with an electricity bill of 500 to 700 reals (135 to 190 dollars) per month that chooses to install a solar panel costing 30,000 reals, will pay for the installation in savings in four and a half years.

Solar Prime is another company benefiting from the solar power boom. Despite opening just five years ago, the company has a presence almost across the country, with 108 branches.

Franchise manager Sandro Cubas expects the number of branches will grow to 150 this year before jumping to 400 in 2019.

According to Cubas, the company had a tough start, as potential clients balked at the high price and long-term cost reducing outlook of solar energy.

These days, however, opinions are changing.

"Solar kits are guaranteed for 25 years, functioning at 80 percent of their initial capacity. In practice that means they can last for 35 to 40 years," said Cubas.

"It's a very good investment," he added.

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