Clean EnergySolar Energy
Solar energy is generated by capturing energy radiated by the sun. The global potential of harnessing this resource is many times the total consumption of energy by all human systems. Additionally, the manner in which this resource can be used allows for a great deal of flexibility for a variety of applications from generating heat to electricity. In the case of Peru, solar energy resources abound with little development having already taken place, a significant investment opportunity for the country.
Scale of Resource
Peru boasts some of the greatest solar resources on planet Earth. Fully harnessing this resource in Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna alone would provide more than enough power for the entire country, with resource leftover for export. This resource is predominantly a result of three primary geographical factors: low latitude (proximity to the equator), high altitude and low cloud cover (thanks partially to the Andes Mountains in creating a double rain shadow and the nearby cold Pacific Ocean currents that mean relatively dry atmospheric currents).
Regionally, southern Peru, northern Chile and areas adjacent to the Atacama Desert exhibit areas of extreme solar resource as shown in the map below (3Tier, INC.). These areas account for more than 7 kWh/day, an astounding potential energy resource.
In a closer view of Peru, as shown in the map below (SENAMHI), we can see that most coastal regions of Peru are ideal for solar project development, particularly Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna departments. The vast majority of these solar-intense regions remain undeveloped.
Solar Thermal and Solar Water Heating
Utilizing solar energy to generate heat is the most common and most efficient way to realize cost savings through solar. Systems that generate heat by the sun are often as high as 80-90% efficient, a great option for low-cost water heating. Solar Water heating accounts for the vast majority of individual solar energy projects in southern Peru.
There are also small- and micro-scale projects involving heat generation with solar energy that include food drying or dehydration systems and solar ovens and cooking systems.
Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
Solar energy can also be harnessed in a way that is similar to the manner in which traditional combustion power plants operate. Through an arrangement of special mirrors and/or lenses, solar energy can be redirected to a central point to generate enormous heat as seen in the image below (Ivanpah CSP, California, USA). This heat is then transferred to a liquid medium, brought into contact with water to generate steam, which then turns a turbine. The advantage to this type of system is the greater efficiency of generating thermal energy with the sun and that the large amount of heat generated by the system can be utilized for several hours after the sun has gone over the horizon, increasing the capacity factor of the system compared to PV systems.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV)
Solar energy can also be directly converted into electricity (DC, inverters are necessary to produce AC power) through the use of photovoltaic cells. These cells, predominantly comprised of thin silicon wafers along with other materials, are manufactured in two main varieties: Poly-Crystalline and Mono-Crystalline cells. Poly-Crystalline cells are easier and less costly to manufacture, while Mono-Crystalline cells are more efficient. Both types of PV modules (or panels, comprised of multiple cells into one unit) are available in Peru for any size project from small-scale to utility-scale. (picture below: Vernon Electric Cooperative, Viroqua, Wisconsin)
At present, PV modules vary in efficiency from 18-21%, but it is important to note that research development and manufacturing improvements continue to push these efficiencies higher every year. Additionally, the same research and manufacturing forces have resulted in unprecedented reduction in cost for this technology, something that is likely to continue for many years into the future. Compared to other forms of energy production, the price of solar energy stands out as one to watch for explosive growth as shown in the price comparison graph below.
Solar water heating accounts for the vast majority of residential solar energy production, but reliable statistics about the aggregate production in Peru is difficult to find. This is predominantly because of the dispersed nature of the solar water heating market and the small-scale of each installed project. Solar water heating is a great alternative to natural gas and propane water heating for homes and small- to medium-sized businesses and institutions.
CSP technology has been utilized to generate power for decades, most famously in Spain where the technology made its large-scale debut. Today, CSP has come into production around the world with many governments and energy companies breaking records for size, scale and energy production every year. While no CSP projects have yet arrived in Peru, CSP has been demonstrated to function efficiently in northern Chile where the government has recently approved a fourth CSP power station.
The potential for solar power generation in Peru is extremely high and practically undeveloped. The regions of Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna Departments boast some of the best annual solar insulation measurements in the world. It is estimated that Peru’s current national energy demand could be met several times over with solar energy alone.
 MINEM Perú – Anuario Estadístico de Electricidad 2016 http://www.minem.gob.pe/_estadistica.php?idSector=6&idEstadistica=11738