Brazil PV factory waits on Finep

Brazilian engineering company Cerutti is waiting for federal government financing to start building a R$39m ($17m) PV panel plant and a renewable energy research and training center in the northeastern state of Alagoas, with the start of operations expected in 2016.

The project is a joint venture between Cerutti's start-up Pure Energy and Italian companies BMS and Regran.

Although Cerutti's project has already obtained preliminary approval from federal innovation financing authority Finep and for fiscal benefits from the Alagoas state government, Pure Energy's administrative director Mariana Seabra said that she doesn't known when the money will start to be disbursed.

The initial plan is to produce 40MW of panels a year and supply a growing demand for solar power from small- and medium-sized businesses using imported polycrystalline solar cells. At a later stage, the company plans to supply large-scale solar PV plants.

The rest of the equipment, including converters, will be produced in Brazil, said Seabra. The research center will aim to develop lighter support frames and adapt the panel to local conditions for which it Pure Energy has already sought partnerships with local federal universities UFAL, USP and UFRJ.

“The innovation is essential to obtain the financing and we need to reduce the panel's costs and weights,” she said.

The factory will be located in the industrial district of Marechal Deodoro in the outskirts of Alagoas state capital Maceió. There, says Seabra, Pure Energy hopes to find suppliers for the panel support frames and electrical components.

The company is still looking for international suppliers for solar cell polycrystalline technology.

“We chose the technology because of its lower price and feasibility in the Brazilian market,” she said.

Aside from supplying businesses, Pure Energy is developing projects in the drought-stricken regions of Brazil's northeast which will apply solar PV technology to pump water to dry highlands and draw and desalinize water from deep wells in poor regions. These projects are likely to be supported by the Alagoas state government.  

Finep launched in 2013 an R$3bn energy innovation program together with power regulator Aneel and the National Development Bank (BNDES), which includes support for solar and wind power renewable energy innovation programs. According to Finep, 56 business plans have been approved.