Solar Photovoltaics in Rio de Janeiro

Solar photovoltaic panels are an option for buildings in Rio

Building-installed photovoltaic generation of electricity is becoming more economically competitive and should be considered for building projects in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by reiner.kraft  licensed under creative commons.

With an abundance of solar energy, the price of solar panels dropping and grid-interconnection now possible, generating electricity by means of solar photovoltaic panels is becoming a more viable option for buildings in Rio de Janeiro. The city receives on average 4.63 kWh/m2 of solar energy per day.

Brazil is an extremely sunny country, with a massive potential for solar photovoltaic power generation. This resource has been largely under-utilised to date. At present, electrical energy in Rio originates largely from remote hydropower plants. These plants are connected to Rio by a complex and expensive transmission and distribution system – to which considerable losses are always associated.

In commercial buildings in Rio during summer months, electric air-conditioning is responsible for most of the power-demand peaks during daytime. These loads are associated with excellent availability of solar-radiation, since the use of air conditioning is positively correlated with the intensity of sunshine. As the sun becomes stronger and electrical demand increases, solar photovoltaics reach their peak generating capacity. Installing solar photovoltaic generating capacity into buildings has the capacity to significantly reduce peak demand on the electricity grid [1].

In addition, solar PV systems can be sited extremely close to where electricity is to be used, minimizing transmission losses and adding capacity to the utility grid without major infrastructure costs. In this context, the use of building-integrated solar PV generation should be considered for developments in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil has made a significant commitment to Solar PV for the 2014 World Cup, which Brazil aims to make the most sustainable tournament in the event’s history [2].

Commercial Viability of Solar PV

Solar energy is growing in popularity amongst Brazilian consumers – partly due to a government program called PROESCO. The program aims to provide financial support for end-users and electricity supply companies wishing to install solar energy systems.

Producing power from rooftop solar panels in Brazil costs less than electricity sold by 10 of the country’s 63 power distributors, according to the national energy agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica. Electricity from a typical 5 kilowatt system costs about 602 reais ($299) per megawatt-hour. Distributors charge between 240 and 709 reais for residential power. Power from rooftop solar systems is increasingly competitive as compared with electricity from utility companies (including Ampla Energia e Servicos SA and Cia. Energetica de Minas Gerais) [3]. When end-users fund solar PV projects using PROESCO, the cost for solar PV generation falls to 586 reais per MWh.

The competitiveness of distributed solar photovoltaic generation has been analyzed by Empresa de Pesquisa Energética, the State energy research company [4]. The analysis compared the estimated cost of generation with the rate paid by the consumer to the utility company. The analysis followed EPIA methodology to determine the cost level, and made the following assumptions:

  • A discount rate of 6% per year (actual rate, ie, discounting inflation, for an annual inflation of 4.5%, for example, the nominal discount rate would be 10.8% per year)
  • Life cycle of plant: 20 years (except inverters: 10 years)
  • Annual cost of operation and maintenance: 1% of the investment cost
  • Maturation period of investment (construction): 3 months
  • Loss of efficiency of panels: 0.65% per year, with a corresponding decrease of the energy produced
  • Efficiency factor: 15.1%

Levelized cost of Generation (R$/kWh)


Source: [4].

Viability of Solar PV in Rio de Janeiro

The cost of electricity in the residential sector in Rio de Janeiro is 521 R$/MWh. The cost of electricity in the commercial sector is 470 R$/MWh – values extracted from Light Serviços de Eletricidade S.A. [5]. The cost of grid electricity in Rio de Janeiro at present is substantially cheaper than electricity generated by solar photovoltaics.


  1. R. Ruther, M. Dacoregio, S. Jardim, and R. W. Ricardo, “GRID-CONNECTED PHOTOVOLTAICS IN BRAZIL,” Florianópolis.
  2. R. Yapp, “PV Powers the World Cup in Brazil,” Renewable Energy World Magazine, 2012.
  3. “Análise da Inserção da Geração Solar na Matriz Elétrica Brasileira,” Rio de Janeiro, 2012.
  4. EPE, “Análise da Inserção da Geração Solar na Matriz Elétrica Brasileira,” 2012. Available at:
  5. Light, “Electricity Tariff Rio de Janeiro,” 2012. [Online]. Available: