If there's a place where solar power makes sense, it's Latin America. The region has many problems, but lack of sun isn't one of them. According to a report by GTM Research, the Latin American region (Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean) installed 625 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2014, a 370% increase in annual growth over 2013, and it's expected to more than triple again in 2015 with 2.1 gigawatts of additional PV (with half of it just in Chile).
The real Solar MVP in Latin America so far is Chile: "With its strong utility-scale market, Chile led the region in PV installations in 2014, making up more than three-quarters of the Latin American total. In the fourth quarter alone, Chile installed double the amount of Latin America’s annual total in 2013."
What's impressive is that Chile started out 2013 with just 11 megawatts of installed solar capacity! This leaves the much bigger countries of Mexico and Brazil decisively in the dust, in second and third position. But hopefully these giants also do something like Chile and decide to hit the ground running rather than slowly ramp up their solar capacity.
And while looking in the rearview mirror shows strong growth, looking ahead at the pipeline of projects on the horizon is even more impressive:
As you can see in the graph above, there are almost 20 gigawatts of projects announced and under construction. Last summer, GTM Research counted 514 projects in the region, valued at $26 billion.
Latin America still has much work to do for one of their countries to break into the top 10 (above), or to make a serious difference in total solar capacity (below), but the potential certainly is there and with the current growth rate (more than tripling in a year), it shouldn't take too many more years for the region to emerge as a solar contender.
With more policy tweaks (net metering, some incentives, are at least removing some fossil fuel subsidies), solar could be an engine of growth for Latin America, helping the region create jobs, reduce its dependency on fossil fuels, and reducing pollution.