SAO PAULO, Aug 31 (Reuters) - China's Trina Solar, the world's largest maker of photovoltaic panels, is looking to grab a piece of Brazil's nascent solar power market despite tough economic conditions, the company's Latin America chief said.
Trina opened an office in Brazil this year, aiming to become a major player by focusing on small-scale projects such as those that place solar panels on residential and business rooftops.
Trina has ruled out building a plant in Brazil, as some competitors have, preferring to initially import panels from China, Álvaro García-Maltrás, the company's main executive for Latin America, said in an interview on Wednesday.
Brazil has turned to solar energy later than other countries in Latin America. Heavily dependent on hydropower projects, the country only recently decided to diversify its energy mix by adopting solar-friendly policies.
But Brazil's deepest recession on record, with a total economic contraction of 8 percent for 2015 and 2016, dealt a blow to early solar projects, with some being canceled outright.
"The main reason for us to start investing in Brazil was not related to large projects," García-Maltrás said.
"The market for distributed generation is enough to make this sector very attractive and it is not subject to the uncertainties we've seen in the official rounds (for licensing large projects)."
The executive said Trina believed the market for small-scale solar generation facilities in Brazil would double every year for the next three or four years. Demand for equipment from this segment would be larger than from large solar parks, he said.
Trina's plan to import all its panels means it cannot tap Brazilian government financing for projects that use locally produced panels. But García-Maltrás said the company could still be competitive.
Chinese rival PV producer BYD Co Ltd and Canadian Solar Inc have built plants in Brazil, and are looking to supply large-scale projects that could benefit from lower-interest financing from Brazil's development bank BNDES.
"We're a conservative company. We want to be certain of our moves and investments," García-Maltrás said.
"We would need some assurance that doing this would make economic sense. We are ready (to invest in a local unit), but we should not do so in the short term." (Reporting by Luciano Costa; Writing by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Richard Chang)