Honduras is set to lead a 1.5GW surge in Central America PV installations up to 2018, according to new analysis by IHS.

The market research firm has predicted that from next year installed capacity in Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador will leap from a modest 22MW this year to 243MW as investors latch on emerging opportunities in the region.

Thereafter, IHS said PV in Central American countries would take off in earnest, with new capacity between 2016 and 2018 accounting for 80% of the total installed over the 2012-2018 period of IHS' analysis.

“About 70% of the electricity generated in Central America already comes from renewable sources, mainly hydro,” said Josefin Berg, senior analyst for solar demand at IHS. “Yet over the past few years, increasing power demand has been met with new thermal generation thanks to power generated from oil, coal and gas, increasing reliance on fossil fuel imports. To counteract this and to avoid future volatility in electricity pricing, governments have begun supporting the controlled deployment of renewables.”

Honduras will lead installations in the region with a cumulative 499MW expected by 2018, followed by Guatemala with 291MW.

IHS said utility-scale projects accounted for 1.3GW, the bulk of the region’s current PV pipeline. Of these projects, half have signed power purchase agreements on the back of enhanced policy support for PV.

Among the shifts in policy support, IHS singled out Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama. Honduras has signed PPAs for 600MW of project, IHS said, while El Salvador and Guatemala have awarded contracts for six projects totalling 179MW via public tenders. Panama is due to hold a tender in October.

Beyond large-scale capacity installations, IHS said PV in Central America was also gaining traction as an alternative to diesel backup generation, with Honduras and Costa Rica both rolling out net metering programmes that could help boost the uptake of small-scale PV.

"We see an increasing interest in PV from hotel owners and local commerce,” Berg added. “A reliable and affordable electricity supply just means better business.”

Comments