Assessing the potential of concentrating solar photovoltaic generation in Brazil with satellite-derived direct normal irradiation

Trajano de Souza Viana, Ricardo Ruther, Fernando Ramos Martins e Enio Bueno Pereira
Solar Energy

With the declining costs of flat plate and concentrating photovoltaic (PV) systems, solar PV generation in many sunny regions in Brazil will eventually become cost competitive with conventional and centralized power generation. Detailed knowledge of the local solar radiation resource becomes critical in assisting on the choice of the technology most suited for large-scale solar electricity generation. When assessing the energy generation potential of non-concentrating, fixed flat plate versus concentrating PV, sites with high levels of direct normal irradiation (DNI) can result in cost-competitive electricity generation with the use of high concentrating photovoltaic systems (HCPV). In large countries, where the transmission and distribution infrastructure costs and associated losses typical of centralized generation must be taken into account, the distributed nature of solar radiation should be perceived as a valuable asset. In this work we assess the potential of HCPV energy generation using satellite-derived DNI data for Brazil, a large and sunny country with a continental surface of 8.5 million km2. The methodology used in the study involved the analysis of global horizontal, latitude-tilt, and direct normal solar irradiation data resulting from the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA) Project, and an estimate of the resulting electricity production potential, based on a review of HCPV generators operating at other sites. The satellite-derived solar irradiation data, with 10 km × 10 km spatial resolution, were analysed over the whole country, in order to identify the regions where HCPV might present a considerable advantage over fixed plate PV on an annual energy generation basis. Our results show that there is a considerable fraction of the national territory where the direct normal solar irradiation resource is up to 20% higher than the latitude-tilt irradiation availability. Furthermore, these sites are located in the most industrially-developed region of the country, and indicate that with the declining costs of this technology, distributed multi-megawatt HCPV can be a good choice of technology for solar energy generation at these sites in the near future.