Brazil's Solair to start PV production

Brazilian PV installation startup Solair Brasil plans to begin local production of panels and inverters in March and April respectively.

By the end of the year it plans to have enough local content to tap cheaper financing from local official sources such as the National Development Bank BNDES and government environmental funds, Solair's CEO Nelson Cortes da Silveira told Recharge.

“We can make engineering adaptations to the inverters and in the assembly of the panels with the imported cells which will reach 70% of local content," he said. “The cheaper financing will reduce our financial cost."

The factory is located in the city of João Pessoa in the northeastern state of Paraíba. It will have a capacity to produce 300,000 panels a year employing 80 workers.

Solair invested R$20m ($8.5m) in the factory. The money invested came from the 13 local investors in the company.

Solair is betting on growing solar PV market and is targeting small-scale installations between 25kW and 30kW.

According to data from power regulator Aneel, Brazil currently has 5.9MW of solar power in operation, including Solair's 2.1MW residential project in the northeastern state of Bahia which started commercial operations this month.

Cortes da Silveira expects to install another 2MW by the end of the first half and 10MW by December 2014.

Solair signed technology transfer agreements with Chinese solar cell maker Linuo and inverter manufacturer KLNE.

While the local content requirements will not change the solar cells and will only affect the other parts and components of the panels, the inverter is included in a licensing agreement through which it can make some engineering changes

The licensing agreement allows Solair to make changes and adaptations to inverter components.

Solair was created in 2009. Cortes da Silveira has been developing a business model to tap into Brazil's unexplored solar potential which was made more feasible for micro and small-scale generation in 2012, when the government approved legislation that gives 80% exemption from wire connection tariffs and allows equipment owners to sell excess capacity to the grid.

“We don't sell the equipment, we rent it,” said Cortes da Silveira.

The company plans to start training installation personnel to also carry out maintenance of the equipment, including through distance monitoring equipment with smart grid technology.

According to the business model, Solair's clients  pay a monthly fee equivalent to 90% to 85% of what they would pay to the local power company.