Central America 2015: Dynamic Growth of Solar and Wind Energy

Solar and wind energy continued to enjoy rapid growth in Central America last year. According to the Economic Commission of the United Nations for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), the newly installed solar capacity in 2015 reached over 500 MW. The main driver of this development was Honduras, which granted a temporary bonus for solar power. This triggered a pipeline of large solar projects, of which 388 MW were installed last year, mainly in the south of the country. Wind energy also experienced solid growth with an additional 309 MW, Panama having the biggest share with its 150 MW Penenomé project. Hydro power has also seen substantial expansion. A further 296 MW were built in Costa Rica (111 MW), Panama (100 MW) and Guatemala (55 MW). Widely unobserved remains the remarkable development of cogeneration which makes use of sugar cane bagasse. 220 MW of new capacity were added in 2015, 156 MW in Guatemala alone. Biogas has tremendous potential but until now the technology has played a minor role in Central American energy markets. Nevertheless, various projects show the technical and economic feasibility of biogas plants.

These figures underscore that Central America is making substantial progress in diversifying its energy mix and reducing its dependency on oil imports. Between 2009 and 2015 the share of generated solar and wind energy increased from 1.1% to 7.1%.