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Chinese solar panel firms help Latin Americans see the light

 

Maracana Stadium is equipped with 1,500 Yingli solar panels which can produce enough electricity to power 240 homes annually with zero air pollution. Marcelo Fonseca / Brazil Photo Press

Facing shrinking markets in the European Union and North America, Chinese solar power companies hope to shed increasing light on Latin America.

Yingli Solar, the world's largest solar panel module manufacturer, launched a branch company in Sao Paulo in 2011 to become the largest solar panel module provider in Latin America.

Following Yingli Solar, Hong Kong-based Sky Solar Group helped in the construction of a 300 megawatt solar power station in Chile in 2012. China's Trina Solar Company also entered the Latin American market, providing crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules for Chile, Mexico and Brazil.

Industry insiders are labeling the Latin American market as the "New World", especially since anti-dumping investigations were launched by the EU.

The EU in 2012 initiated anti-dumping investigations against China's photovoltaic panels, cells and other modules, worth up to $200 billion.

After almost a year's efforts by the Chinese government and associated organizations, China and the EU reached a compromise in 2013 and set the lowest price of Chinese photovoltaic products at 0.56 euro (77 US cents), an increase of 0.06 euro.

As a result, Chinese exports of solar power facilities to the European market experienced a sharp decrease.

For example, 60 percent of Yingli Solar's exports went to the EU in 2012, but this decreased to 20 percent at the end of 2013.

However, China's solar power exports to Latin America reached $1.49 billion, an increase of 9.8 percent, the only growing market in 2013.

The International Energy Agency predicted that demand for electricity in this region would increase by 26 percent. The United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America said the region's investment in electricity would hit $719 billion by 2030.

Sun Hongbo, a researcher on China-Latin American relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Latin America is an important market for Chinese solar power companies in their market-diversification efforts.

"Energy cooperation is an important part in economic cooperation between China and Latin America. The solar power industry will be another market, besides oil, set for expansion.''

However, Latin America is still an emerging market. Brazil, for instance, has 83 percent of its electricity produced by renewable energy but mainly through hydro and wind power, according to the Washington based Pew Environment Group.

"Our construction of solar power facilities in Brazil in recent years is only 2 to 3 mW, far less than in our traditional markets. But Yingli is experienced in entering emerging markets," said Zeng, Yingli Solar's vice-president of global marketing.

Zeng said Yingli will provide solar power knowledge, technology and be a partner to Brazil which will greatly benefit its development.

"Yingli's strategy is the correct one at this stage. For most Chinese solar power companies, the key issue now is not simply selling the product but to provide services and knowledge in order to make solar power accepted by society in general," said Sun.

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