Strong Fundamentals for Solar Power in Sonora

May 01, 2022

Sonora is set to become a renewable energy hub in Mexico, leading the way for other states to follow as it breaks ground on a major solar project and commences work on several key infrastructure developments.

Sonora's Location Makes it Ideal for Solar Generation

The state of Sonora in northern Mexico has been identified by the National Autonomous University of Mexico as having the greatest solar potential in the country. If just 1% of Sonora’s land was used for solar projects it could provide enough energy to power Mexico, based on the electricity consumption from 2020 – around 50 GW/h.

The state is one of Mexico’s biggest energy consumers, due to its scorching desert summers and cold winters. We expect the development of more solar projects across the region will help ensure Sonora’s energy security in the coming years.

Sonora has almost 180,000km2 of sun-rich territory, with 800km of coastline, making it highly suitable for a variety of renewable energy projects. Bordering the U.S. states of Arizona and New Mexico, it provides a key trade link between the two countries, known as the "Northwest Gate".

At present, Sonora has 1,250MW of installed solar capacity. However, its limited transmission infrastructure has, so far, prevented it from exporting much of its energy. We believe the construction of a stronger transmissions system would help Sonora to become a renewable energy hub as it further develops its solar power sector.

Supportive Government Policies to Establish a Renewable Energy Hub

Sonora Governor Alfonso Durazo has highlighted plans for an ambitious development strategy that includes expanding the Guaymas port to double its current capacity, modernising its six border crossings, and building the major Guaymas-Chihuahua highway.

The improved infrastructure will support Sonora’s solar ambitions by making it easier to access energy projects and transport materials. In addition, it will increase Sonora’s potential of becoming an energy exporter to the U.S. and the rest of Mexico.

Governor Durazo hopes to attract private investment to the region, to complement public energy projects. We expect the mining of minerals to become an increasingly important industry, supporting the renewable energy sector. 

If Sonora can develop a strong minerals industry, it has the potential to become a hub for lithium-ion battery manufacturing, lending itself to the electric vehicle (EV) market. We believe this will go hand-in-hand with the states’ solar ambitions as it establishes itself as an example for Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

The Puerto Peñasco Solar Park

The Puerto Peñasco solar park is central to the government’s energy transition aims. In 2021, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced plans to evaluate the viability of developing the 1GW solar park in Puerto Peñasco in the north of Sonora. If built, it would be the largest solar energy project in Latin America and the seventh largest in the world.

Mexico’s state-owned utility (CFE), which is tasked with developing the project, expects the park to cost around $1.7 billion and be operational by April 2027, comprising 2 million solar panels. The park will provide cheap electricity to Baja California through the construction of the Northwest line, expected to be operational by the end of 2023. 

Durazo also highlighted plans to develop smaller solar projects across the state, working in partnership with indigenous communities to reinvest in poorer areas as Sonora develops its energy sector. The state government will also have to work with environmental experts to ensure that the construction of several new energy projects will not damage areas of protected environment, having already carried out an environmental assessment for the first two phases of the Puerto Peñasco solar park.

Our Outlook Remains Positive

We expect Sonora to expand its already strong solar energy industry over the next five years. Through the construction of a 1GW solar park and the development of much of its transportation infrastructure, Sonora could quickly become a renewable energy hub for Latin America. There is also the potential to export its solar power to the United States. With countries across the region striving for net-zero carbon emissions over the coming decades, Sonora can be an innovator in the region.

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