Brazil is already a world leader in renewable energy but it is only now that wind power is starting to take off and attract some of the attention given to the country’s much copied biofuels sector.
Brazil currently has around 1,500 Megawatts of wind power capacity installed and working but that number should rise to 8,000 Megawatts by 2016 and 20,000 megawatts in 2020, according to Pedro Perrelli, executive director of the Brazilian Wind Power Association.
Several big companies are investing heavily here and that investment could make Brazil the fourth biggest installer of wind power in the world this year. Global firms like Alstom, Fuhrlander AG, Wobben, WEG, Insa, Suzlon, and GE are all looking to Brazil and particularly the country’s Northeast, where there are strong winds, few storms, and plenty of uninhabited land.
Those areas are also close to the electricity grid, which reduces transmission costs, and they are located near to the country’s fastest growing region.
“(Some) of the greatest potential is in the Northeastern region,”
Marcos Costa, Vice President Renewable Power and Thermal Power for Alstom Latin America, said last year on opening a wind turbine plant in Bahia state.
With over 1000 rivers and the largest supply of fresh water in the world, Brazil has historically got much of its power from hydro sources. Today, more than 80 % percent of the energy matrix comes from hydro power.
But experts see wind power as an antidote to that strategy. They believe relying on hydro is risky because of possible droughts, as the country discovered in 2001 when widespread electricity rationing and rolling blackouts were introduced all over the country.
“In a country mainly powered by hydro energy and increasingly suffering from water shortages, wind power can, help alleviate some serious energy security concerns, especially during the dry winters,”the Global Wind Energy Council said in a recent report.
Brazil has untapped riches in wind, with a potential of around 143 Gigawatts at 50 meters and as much as 350 Gigawatts at 80-100 meters, according to the council.
“Just two years ago wind power was 0.4 percent of the matrix and today it is 1.5 per cent,” said Perrelli. “It should be 12-15 per cent of the matrix in 2020.”
The government wants renewable energies to account for 10 % of the country’s electricity supply by 2020 and authorities offer assistance to wind power projects under the Proinfa program for renewable energies.
Some 95 % of Brazil’s wind farms were built with assistance from Proinfa.
About the Author
Andrew Downie fled a factory job in Scotland almost 20 years ago and set off to find adventure in Latin America. Since then he has lived in Mexico, Haiti, and now Brazil, writing and reporting for publications such as The New York Times, Time magazine, Esquire and GQ. He spent eight years in Rio de Janeiro and currently lives in São Paulo.
The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of the views of the Mahindra Group.