For 180 years now, the sun has been given a prominent place in the flag of Uruguay. But it was just two years ago that the country actually started to make its first steps towards supporting the national solar thermal sector.
The first and most important step was the creation of “Mesa Solar” in 2008, a multi-sector network for the promotion of solar energy in Uruguay. Its members include not only public institutions and universities, but also private companies, consultants and various associations linked with the topic. Mesa Solar aims at building up a viable solar thermal sector in Uruguay, creating measures for the promotion of the sector's development and coordinating efforts among the members of the network themselves.
Looking back at the first one and a half years since the creation of Mesa Solar, the network can already show some noticeable results:
- Drafting the Solar Law (Law 18,585), which was approved at 18 September 2009. It declares the nation's interest in the research and development of solar thermal energy in the country and requires all hotels, hospitals and sports clubs to use solar thermal energy for water heating.
- The Government launching various measures, among them the creation of technical standards for energy-efficient solar collectors, the development of trainings for industry professionals and installers, as well as measures to disseminate information about solar thermal energy more broadly among the population.
- Facilitating the foundation of a Solar Chamber of Uruguay, which represents a group of businessmen, manufacturers, importers and consultants in solar thermal energy. The first targets for this Uruguayan Solar Association is drafting a National Solar Master Plan.
- Starting training courses in cooperation with universities: Both the University of the Republic and ORT University provide trainings in designing and planning solar thermal systems for technicians through their Faculty of Architecture. The Labour University of Uruguay, on the other hand, offers courses for trainers. This year's goal is to establish courses all around the country, so that it may be possible to offer trainings at all the levels necessary for developing solar technology.
- Encouraging the state energy utility, UTE, to pioneer in the use of solar energy by equipping their swimming pools with solar thermal systems.
The joined forces of Mesa Solar have already had some effect on the national solar thermal sector. According to a presentation by Mesa Solar held in October 2009, the collector market increased by a remarkable 50 % annually over the last two years (see attached document). Overall market figures, however, are still quite small and added up to a total area of only 4,800 m2 at the end of 2008.
The successful activities of Mesa Solar and the approval of the Solar Law were well received and made it certain to everyone that the solar thermal sector is one of the country's great opportunities. Solar energy started out in Uruguay to stay for a long time - as it has already been in its flag for almost two centuries.
This news was written by Eliseo Cabrera, Architect from Uruguay (firstname.lastname@example.org) Professor of Facultad de Arquitectura Universidad ORT in cooperation with Carlos Faria Café Director of SE-Studio Equinócio – Marca Solar Group based in Brazil (café@studioequinocio.com.br).