by Marco Dorothal (Solarplaza), with contributions from Manan Parikh (GTM Research)

In order to show the strength of solar power in the Latin American region Solarplaza presents an overview and analysis of the Top 20 largest major solar players, using data supplied by GTM Research.

The solar energy industry in Latin America has shown great potential over recent years and is developing to become a strong and fruitful regional market. Nonetheless, the diversity between the conditions of the various countries have made for a complex market landscape with different players competing for the top spot. Big players such as Enel Green Power, Atlas Renewable Energy and Acciona have been battling for the top spot in operational and development pipelines with their buzzing activity.

The list of the Top 20 major solar players comes in preparation of the 2-day conference, Solar Asset Management Latin America, set to be held in Chile on the 17th and 18th of October. Solar Asset Management Latin America is the region's leading conference dedicated to optimization of the operational phase of PV plants and portfolios.


Leading companies

The top 20 owners of operational solar projects in Latin America encompass a total of 3,183 MW of installed capacity in the region. Enel Green Power, the largest player in the region, makes up for more than one fifth of the total capacity with 720 MW of operational solar plants, while at the same time it holds more than one third of the total capacity of solar plants under construction, with a pipeline of 2,110MW worth of PV projects. As a result, Enel Green Power is both the biggest asset owner and has the biggest pipeline of solar projects in Latin America. Together with Acciona and Engie, Enel Green Power is one of the few fully integrated companies that operate in every stage of their value chain. This includes the planning aspects, engineering, the construction process and the operating elements of their solar projects. As communicated outwardly, the company tries to be very precise with their commercial operation dates deadlines, even in risky markets.


TOP 20 OPERATIONAL SOLAR PORTFOLIOS

# Project Owner Capacity (MWdc) T20 UC* T20 CON**
1 Enel Green Power 720 #1#10
2 Atlas Renewable Energy 509 -#16
3 Acciona 255 #2#8
4 First Solar 163 --
5 X-Elio Energy 155 -#5
6 Engie 149 #8#4
7 COHESSA 140 --
8 Sunpower 131 -#14
9 Pattern Energy 122 --
10 Solarpack 117 -#18
* Ranking in the Top 20 Solar Projects Under Construction
* Ranking in the Top 20 Contracted Solar Projects

The second most important owner of solar project assets in the region is Atlas Renewable Energy, an asset management company, that owns slightly more than 15% of the installed capacity. Atlas Renewable Energy was founded in early 2017 and operates with the support of its parent company Actis Group and its strategic regional partners in order to develop its own pipeline. By looking at the top 20 under construction PV portfolios, it is clear that Atlas Renewable Energy does not have enough projects currently under construction to crack that particular top 20. On the other hand, the list with the top 20 of contracted PV portfolios does show that they are currently ranked as 16th in terms of contracted PV projects. In order to understand the situation with Atlas Renewable Energy it is important to know how and why the company was established. After Actis Group finalized an acquisition of a large quantity of solar PV assets in Latin America from SunEdison, the company decided to establish Atlas Renewable Energy to take care of the development and operating activities of these new assets. The majority of these new solar PV assets are still in the early stages of development, consequently they are not visible in the under construction list.

Acciona is the third leading company in operational projects with approximately 255 MW of the listed capacity and is currently working hard to keep up with the top two players that have already established a massive lead when it comes to operating projects. However, when it comes to pipelines under construction, Acciona is ranked 2nd and is doing much better than Atlas Renewable Energy. The only place where Acciona managed to beat Enel Green Power is in the top 20 list of contracted projects, where it is ranked 2 spots above the LATAM giant. The company is able to rank high in all three lists because it focuses on all parts of solar projects, from design and construction to operation and maintenance.


TOP 20 SOLAR PORTFOLIOS
UNDER CONSTRUCTION

# Project Owner Capacity (MWdc)
1 Enel Green Power 2119
2 Acciona 410
3 Fisterra Energy 349
4 Iberdrola 335
5 EDF 334
6 Rijn Capital 300
7 Mainstream Renewable Power 265
8 Engie 209
9 Zuma 192
10 Colbun 188

TOP 20 CONTRACTED
SOLAR PORTFOLIOS

# Project Owner Capacity (MWdc)
1 Fotowatio Renewable Ventures 592
2 Mainstream Renewable Power 580
3 Jinkosolar 501
4 Engie 486
5 X-Elio Energy 418
6 Solatio 395
7 Alten Energy 348
8 Acciona 343
9 Austrian Solar 329
10 Enel Green Power 308


The remaining MWs of solar operational projects are distributed among the rest of the 17 companies that are fiercely competing with each other. The results show that each of these remaining 17 companies are competing in their current position by no more than 20 MW.

First Solar's Product Scaling

Other companies that were ranked in the top 15 and specifically worth mentioning are First Solar, Rijn Capital, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures and Jinkosolar. The situation with First Solar is very peculiar because they are ranked 4th in operational solar projects, but they are not on the top 20 lists when it comes to solar projects under construction or contracted. First Solar has become one of the most prolific solar manufacturers in the world today with the use of its thin-film technology on a large scale. However, dealing with a changing market landscape in many of the markets it currently operates, First Solar is currently in the midst of a major reorganization of its business model. The major change to its business model included the upgrading of its product called Series 4 to a new solar module called Series 6, which is a larger, more efficient product that aims to lower installation costs. This has led First Solar to sell some of the projects in their development pipeline. The company states that it can get better value this way, as well as recycling capital more effectively in order to provide additional cash for the company’s capital intensive changes.

The case of Rijn Capital is another interesting one, as it is an asset management company ranked 15th in the top 20 operational solar project portfolios. Contrary to what their specialization would prescribe, the company also holds 300 MW worth of projects under construction, which could cause a significant rise in the operational chart if it decides not to sell its assets. Being an asset management firm, this may not be the case as Rijn Capital focuses on selling assets and investing in opportunities in sustainable markets.  

Contracted Pie Chart.jpg

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) is the top project owner when it comes to contracted projects, with 592 MW planned. So far, the company has focused primarily on projects in the US with 24 operational projects and in Europe with 13 operational projects. According to the information on their website, FRV only has 2 projects In Latin America, one in Uruguay that is operational, and one in Mexico that is still in the development phase. Their contracted pipeline of 592 MW however clearly indicates large ambitions for the region

JinkoSolar in recent years grew out to become a global leader in the solar PV industry and ranks third in terms of contracted solar projects, yet it does not have enough operational projects or projects under construction to rank in those top 20 overviews. Recently, JinkoSolar has tried to separate its downstream solar PV project business from its development activities, to prudently explore strategic alternatives that will benefit the company’s shareholders. The duties of operating the solar projects are planned to be passed on to JinkoSolar’s new subsidiary, named Jinko Power. Neither of the two companies were ranked on the list, which could mean that they are not yet active in operating solar PV assets in LATAM.

For the most part, companies that develop solar PV projects are also the ones that own the projects. From the top 20 operational solar PV portfolios that includes companies like Enel Green Power, Acciona and Engie. Companies that are focused more on asset management, tend to sell their projects prior to or after the cash on delivery. Such companies include Atlas Renewables Energy, Rijn Capital and Sojitz Corporation.


Learn more about the latest developments on Latin America's secondary market, get the latest updates on solar asset trades and meet the most relevant players in the operations & maintenance and asset management industry at Solar Asset Management LATAM, the region's leading conference focused on the operational phase of solar plants. 


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