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Jun 11, 2014  | Tom Cheyney  | 1 Comment

World Cup solar power

Leading solar countries well represented among the 32 teams in Brazil

It’s finally World Cup 2014 time, and Team Solar Curator can’t wait for foot to meet ball in Brazil. We’re not only excited because most of us are avid international soccer-futbol fans, but also since nearly all of the most solarized countries on the planet are represented in the draw. Consider this: among the 32 nations playing in the tournament, nine of the top 10 countries in terms of installed solar power capacity will be taking the pitch over the next week. That’s what I call World Cup solar power. Imagine if China could field a decent side, the count could have been a perfect 10 for 10. And if India could too… sorry, that’s a stretch and not very cricket of me.

Leading the solar charge in terms of installations is über dog Germany, followed by Italy, Japan, USA (USA USA!), Spain, France, Australia, England (stipulating that most UK PV is found in England), and, perhaps surprisingly to some, Belgium—with Greece a few hundred megawatts behind “les Belges.” Apart from the lack of South American representation, the selection represents several of the great historic/current powers in the sport (Germany, Italy, Spain, France, England), a few up-and-comers (Belgium, USA, Japan), and a team that has almost no hope of advancing out of its tough group (sorry, Aussies).

The solarized teams are spread across six of the eight groups. One of the so-called “Groups of Death,” Group G(igawatt), includes both Germany and USA, which combined had in the neighborhood of 50GW in solar capacity between them as of the end of last year. Group D(eployment) features Italy and England, with ~21GW between them at year’s end, edging Group C(rystalline silicon) combo Japan and Greece’s ~20GW. Group B(OS) duo Spain and Australia pair up for 8GW and change –and push toward 9GW with group member Netherlands’ PV contribution.

Looking beyond the first-round matchups, the outlook for the solar powers taking the pitch in the second round and beyond presents some intriguing possibilities. Italy or England vs. Greece or Japan? USA or Germany vs. Belgium? A France-Germany or Spain-Italy quarterfinal matchup, or Belgium-Spain semifinal? Even a Germany-Italy final is possible. There are potentially a lot of gigawatt bragging rights at stake.

On the other end of the installed solar capacity spectrum sit 11 Copa-bound countries that have fewer megawatts than the 2.5MW system helping power Brazil’s national stadium, Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasilia, according to the “Poor Peoples” Energy Outlook” report from the British NGO Practical Action. The solar-poor nations are Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Iran, Ivory Coast, Uruguay, and Ghana.

To be fair, several of those countries are poised to add hundreds of megawatts in the next few years, fueled by improved government policies, economic opportunities, and energy shortages. Ghana, for example, has 2GW in the project application stage (which doesn’t include off-grid and microgrid potential), with construction on the 155MW Nzema site already under way.  Uruguay, which issued a 200MW solar tender last year, is another market on the rise.

Brazil itself may have big solar dreams, but it has yet to reach the century mark in capacity. The host country has 40MW or so of grid-tied solar–and about 5.4MW of that is installed on futbol stadiums, according to PV Tech. On the pitch, Brazil’s dreams of victory rest with Neymar, Dani Alves and the rest of the home team–among the favorites to win the tourney.

No commentary on the World Cup-solar power nexus would be complete without a mention of Yingli Green Energy, the first PV firm to become a sponsor of the world-watched sporting event when it signed on for the South African edition of the tournament in 2010. The company has doubled down on its sponsorship for the 2014 games, and just announced that it will be the first carbon-neutral sponsor of the World Cup through a combination of the installation of more than 5000 PV panels, a few dozen off-grid systems, and locally generated “carbon emission reduction certificates.”

Just as a successful soccer side must sustain its energy, focus and execution during a match, the World Cup organizers have cited sustainability as a “key tenet in [their] vision,” with Yingli leading the way.

Sources: FIFA, REN21, Practical Action, PV-Tech, PV magazine, Yingli, SolarCurator

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