The Brazilian power grid reaches approximately 99% of the countryâ€™s population. To connect the remaining 1% has been challenging â€“ often located in isolated communities of regions that are difficult to reach. With increasing global adoption of solar+storage, and significant price drops across the two technologies over the past decade, the solution is showing promise for the remote Brazilian market. Solar+storage is becoming a more competitive solution than its most popular alternative â€“ diesel â€“ to supply the needed power for off-grid communities. And now, even grid-connected residential properties are opting for independence.
July 9, 2020
Looking for diversification in its product and solution offerings in Brazil, Growatt has set its eyes on supporting the remote distributed generation marketplace. The fast-growth inverter manufacturer recently won a contract for an isolated solar+storage project located in MinuaĂ§u, GoiĂˇs, and is looking to expand the new business model in this arena. The new 7 kW off-grid solar PV system will supply power for a basic health unit in Avacanoeiro, an indigenous village of Brazil.
â€śThis project is of great importance as it will not only guarantee energy for care in the indigenous village, but it will also provide for the conservation of refrigerated medicines and vaccines,â€ť says Talyson Alves, Growattâ€™s marketing manager in Brazil.
Supported by a carport structure used by the National Indigenous Foundation, the PV project consists of 24 335W solar photovoltaic modules. Three of them will be used to power a pumping system, and the remaining 21 make up the off-grid solar PV project coupled with Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) battery technology.Â The system is supported by a 5 KVA Growatt Inverter, 14.4 kWh battery and 100 Amp Growatt sine wave Charger Controller
Market growth potential
Brazilâ€™s state-owned research firm for the energy sector, EPE, has been supporting the government with studies for sustainable development of the countryâ€™s energy infrastructure. According to the latest data available from EPE, Brazil had 270 communities isolated from the power grid, accounting for approximately three million people without power at the end of 2018. With more than 209 million people residing in Brazil, nearly 1.5% of the countryâ€™s population have been without grid access. Approximately 265 power plants have been supplying these localities, with a total capacity of 1.16 GW, primarily from thermal plants consuming diesel.
Specifically, it is the logistics needed to continually replenish these plants with the fuel that may turn solar+storage into a competitive option for the Brazilian off-grid market. At least the federal government seems to think so. In March, the Energy and Mines Ministry (MME) announced that approximately 72,000 families in the Amazon region plus the State of Mato Grosso, the â€ślegal Amazonia,â€ť will have access to energy through solar PV systems. This should happen over the next 10 years, supported by a total projected investment of R$ 2.4 billion.
Late last year, the MMEâ€™s general coordinator of social policy development, Paulo Cerqueira, announced an expansion of the Luz para Todos (â€śPower for Allâ€ť) program. The federal initiative that was established in 2003 to promote the universalization of power supply in the country has already served 3.5-million families, with R$ 20 billion invested in off-grid. By 2022, it is estimated that the program will serve more than 400,000 additional families in rural regions.
A competitive solution
Solar+storage in Brazil is not solely limited to isolated communities for off-grid support however, and Growatt is planning to offer others with a competitive solution. â€śIt will also fit in very well commercially, for example, for a fishmonger in a region where service is not very reliable,â€ť says Alves. That is, in cases where continuous power supply is critical for consumers, they may also need backup power when the local grid suffers from regular interruptions. While this is usually done with a diesel generator, solar+storage offers competitive advantages, such as mitigated fuel and logistics costs. And Growatt believes that its inverterâ€™s remote monitoring system could be a key differential.
â€śA decisive point to determine the last contract in MinuaĂ§u was our Online Smart Service technology, which allows the operator to diagnose and solve problems remotely in a quick and efficient manner,â€ť says Alves. He recognizes that the installation of the solar+storage system can still be more expensive than that of a diesel generator, but in the long run, without the purchasing and logistics of fuel, the solution can be advantageous.
Recently, Growatt has also begun working with residential customers. MoisĂ©s da Silva, a homeowner that could be connected to the gridâ€™s power supply, chose to install his own 6 kW solar+storage system. The client was motivated by high tariff prices (R$ 0.52/kWh) for residential consumers in his state, EspĂrito Santo. The newly installed system runs with two SPF 3000 LVM inverters of 120V, in parallel, split-phase allowing to connect 220V devices.
And MoisĂ©sâ€™ project has been broadcasted widely. On the customerâ€™s Sol na Placa (â€śSun on the Panelâ€ť), YouTube channel, he has shared his personal experience going solar with a reach of 45,000 subscribers. The client frequently comments, â€śSolar energy is not just for rich people.â€ť
The second inverter in MoisĂ©sâ€™ system was donated by Growatt after he spontaneously mentioned the company in one of his videos. With the paralleled configuration, MoisĂ©s was able to install an electric shower in his house.
â€śI have seen a growing range of people who install off-grid systems, even when the grid is available,â€ť says Alves. â€śPower is expensive, so they cut off their connection from the network and save money.â€ť Off-grid systems, he says with enthusiasm, are now becoming an attractive option to a wider range of consumers.