Solar power in Brazil: sustainable and cost-effective

Aerial view of the embassy grounds in Brasilia showing the individual buildings fitted with solar panels and the embassy's large garden.
The blue solar panels on the buildings are clearly visible from above. © FDFA

The Federal Council's Sustainable Development Strategy 2016–2019 extends beyond domestic policy measures. Successful implementation of sustainable development requires greater coordination between domestic and foreign policy. The Swiss embassy in Brasilia has undergone systematic ecological restructuring in recent years and is therefore a good example of Switzerland's commitment abroad..

The construction of a solar power system in 2017 was a major step towards greater sustainability for the embassy. Today, the Swiss government's buildings in Brasilia are practically energy self-sufficient as they produce almost all the electricity they need themselves. This is not self-evident in Brazil, then despite the many hours of sunshine, this renewable form of electricity production is not common in the country. 

Good reasons for renewable energy

There were three key reasons why the embassy opted for a solar power system in Brazil. Firstly, Brazil receives abundant sunshine, averaging more than six hours a day and reaching up to 10 hours a day. The second reason is the rising price of electricity in Brazil. Due to climate change and prolonged periods of drought, water shortages are on the rise, and therefore less hydroelectric power is produced. As a result, prices have risen sharply in recent years, for example by 50% in 2015 compared with the previous year. The solar power system thus produces an annual energy cost saving of more than 70% so that the plant will have paid for itself in just a few years. Thirdly, the solar power generated by the embassy itself is more ecological than the electricity from the grid, as the public electricity mix is generated only partly from renewable energy sources. Therefore, the new solar power system is definitely worth the cost of installation.

Graph showing the evolution of energy costs of the Swiss embassy in Brasilia between February 2016 and October 2018.
Energy costs of the Swiss embassy in Brasilia in 2016–18 © FDFA

When the solar power system was installed, the embassy roofs were renovated at the same time. New, insulating aluminium roof panels now help cool the building naturally.

Foreground: bushes and palm trees; background: a two-storey building.
The residence seen from the garden. © FOBL

Further commitment to greater sustainability 

In the future, the electricity produced by the embassy will also be used to charge an electric vehicle. The use of an electric vehicle will further reduce emissions.

In addition, the grounds around the embassy and the two service buildings is generously planted. The native species used for this purpose contribute to local biodiversity. Given the water shortage in Brazil, the green areas are irrigated in a targeted manner. With all these measures, the Swiss embassy is setting an important example in terms of sustainability and environmental responsibility in Brazil's capital.

Aerial view of the Swiss embassy in Brasilia (video)