Solar developer looks to South America for opportunity

Solar developer looks to South America for opportunitySequel Power, a subsidiary of Tegal Corporation, recently opened offices in Chile and Argentina to signal its commitment to developing solar energy in South America.

The company opened offices in Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the end of October with the intention of building a reputation and presence there, said Sequel CEO Ferdinand Seemann.

“South America is an emerging market for the solar industry,” Seemann said. “We have been working there for some time but have decided to put more resources into those areas.”

While Sequel has had a presence in the South American countries for years, it has yet to do a major project in any of the continent’s three major economies—Chile, Argentina or Brazil.

However, Seemann said the company has done work in Ecuador and Peru.

The big three countries in South America are just starting to understand what they can do with solar, Seemann said. Brazil recently launched a rooftop solar initiative, and Argentina is considering a feed-in-tariff program. Chile has no government incentives and isn’t likely to get involved. But, as the prices of solar panels fall and as the country deals with rising energy costs, Seemann said he believes solar may be viable in Chile without much government help.

The countries have good bones for developing solar, Seemann said.

“You have to look at what’s there,” he said. “There’s plenty of sunshine and a lot of available land.”

He said he’s gearing up to propose a large project in Argentina.

“These projects take years in development,” he said. “Most of it is education. In a lot of places you are talking to people who have no idea how solar works, and you have to really explain it.”

Sequel generally works only on large-scale solar installation projects of 20 megawatts or more. But the company has been involved in some smaller 3-megawatt projects in emerging markets, Seemann said. And he’s prepared to start small and to work through the discovery period in South America, so he can be one of the first on the ground.

“This is pioneering work,” Seemann said.