Number of utility-scale solar parks in Mexico: More than 65
Sonora: Mexico’s solar hubFebruary 17, 2023
Banking on Mexico’s impressive solar potential, the state of Sonora has successfully attracted a wealth of investment despite the current lack of incentives for renewable energy in the country, including the construction of a mammoth 1-GW solar park set to break regional records and put Mexico on the map for green innovation.
Mexico is situated between 15 and 35 degrees latitude, a region considered among the world’s most favourable in terms of solar resources, receiving an average of 5.5 kWh per square metre on a daily basis. Around 85% of Mexico’s national territory is considered optimum to develop solar projects, having the potential of becoming the world’s seventh largest solar hub.
Today, Mexico has more than 65 utility-scale solar parks located across 16 states, with a combined investment of USD 10.3 billion. Altogether, the country has an installed capacity of around 8.78 GW, with 6.49 GW coming from large-scale projects and 2.12 GW from distributed generation sites. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the country could potentially reach 30 GW of installed solar capacity by 2030 with proper incentives, with 60% generated by large-scale ventures and 40% from distrusted generation.
MIGHTY SONORA: Mexico’s northeast region has the most solar potential, with irradiance levels above 8 kWh per square metre in the spring and summer months. In particular, the state of Sonora is set to become the nation’s most prominent solar hub. According to a recent study made by Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México only 1% of this state’s territory could provide all the power needed to cover the nation’s electricity demand.
However, hurdles are found in the lack of incentives in place for solar projects. Additionally, the sites with the highest potential are located in the centre of the country and represent challenges for the current transmission network of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). Despite this, Sonora has been blessed with 180,000 square kilometres of sun-rich territory, including vast stretches of arid land and scorching deserts. The region has become a solar haven for private renewable investors and grounds for one of the government’s most ambitious solar projects yet.
THE PATH TO SOLAR: Sonora has turned out to be a bright opportunity for a handful of international firms such as Spanish players Acciona, Iberdrola and X-Elio, France’s Engie and North America’s Canadian Solar. Local companies have also made inroads in the region with key investments made by Sempra Infrastructure, Zuma Energy and Internovum Solar. Through various projects, the state now has around 1.25 GW of installed solar capacity.
Despite the nation’s uncertain renewables landscape, the government of Sonora, led by Governor Alfonso Durazo Montaño, has taken a proactive stance to attract private investment into the region. The goal is to endow the region’s 72 different municipalities with electricity while boosting Sonora’s potential to become an energy exporter to the rest of Mexico and the US.
In mid-2021, the national government set in motion a plan to develop a 1-GW solar park in the municipality of Puerto Peñasco in northern Sonora. Developed by the CFE, the facility is expected to be the largest photovoltaic project in Latin America and the eighth largest in the world with an estimated value of more than USD 1.7 billion.
Construction of the park’s first phase of 279,000 solar panels and substation began in May 2022, with completion expected in April 2023. Together, all phases will comprise 2 million solar panels and are expected to be completed by 2027. The venture is projected to cut the country’s carbon emissions by 1.4 million tonnes and make Sonora a pioneer hub for renewable energy and modernisation.