Is Colombia Ready for Solar Energy?

ImageThe Colombian energy market envisages developments and opportunities for renewable sources beyond hydro.

The country’s bulk part of the energy supply feeds from hydro-power plants (85% of the overall power supply in 2012 source: www.geni.org) and the rest from oil-fuelled thermoelectric plants. The country is the third largest oil and gas producer in South America and is a net exporter of power to the nearby countries. The combined presence of valuable oil&gas resources (see BNAmericas news) and its privileged geographical position to provide the bordering countries with energy (Venezuela at first), compels a logical choice for Colombia to drive the fossil resources to the commodity market and produce energy from low-cost sources. And here come the wind projects on the Atlantic coast and the possible exploitation of the solar source from the Southwestern flat regions (Meta, Guaviare).

Beside the grid-connected urban regions, there are vast countryside areas of Colombia not yet served by the power grid. Local facilities – towns and commercial shops – rely on oil-fuelled generators for their energy supply, in many cases operating 24/7 throughout the year. The potential savings from hybrid systems (solar+storage – diesel) has been assessed with impressive results. The pay-back time for a hybrid system is about two to five years, depending on the power-load curve characteristic: the more the power requirement follows the incident solar energy (see Colombia map), the less the size of the batteries, the lower the operation-time of the generator, the higher the economical convenience.

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