Study Identifies Mexico as Huge Solar Resource

The report, Solar Energy Sector, was prepared by Mexico’s energy department, SENER, formally known as the Mexican Secretaría de Energía. Resch, in case you didn’t know, is president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, a powerful solar interest trade group. So the report is bound to be good.

More than good, it’s extensive, with a wealth of valuable charts and graphics – far too many to attempt to reproduce here. In essence, though, it notes that Mexico has been ranked at the top, globally, in terms of its solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal resources.

This is not all that surprising to those of us who have visited Mazatlan in the summer. For the rest, consider these facts:

* Mexico’s solar insolation values are about 5 kilowatt-hours per meter squared per day (kWh/mW/day), which compares favorably with southern California.
* Using just 0.06 percent of Mexico’s landmass (or 25 square kilometers in Chihuahua or the Sonoran Desert) would be enough to provide the entire country with electricity (at 2005 rates of usage).

Not only is Mexico’s average solar insolation 60 percent greater than in Germany, where solar is currently king, but – according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) EA Photovoltaic Power Systems Program 2008 Annual Report – Mexico is seriously underdeveloped in terms of solar energy technologies like solar photovoltaic (PV), concentrating solar power (CSP) and passive solar thermal (i.e., hot water heating).

For example, as of a 2007-08 report – Mexico Solar Installations by Type – there are no concentrating solar power plants in Mexico, and 80 percent of the solar PV installations are not grid-connected. Moreover, 78 percent of the solar thermal installations are for heating swimming pools rather than residential wash water.

Given that Baja is one of Mexico’s best solar insolation resources, and that the Aubanel Wind Project being installed there is exporting some (perhaps most) of its energy output to the U.S., it makes sense to consider solar projects “across the border” that benefit Mexico (in terms of power sales) and the U.S., in terms of clean, renewable energy.