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Brazil Bets Big on Wind Power

By John Daly | Fri, 16 December 2011 02:00 | 0

Looking towards the future, one of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) is seriously investing in wind power.

According to the Brazilian Association of Wind Energy ABEEolica, Brazil is already Latin America's leading wind energy market, with a current wind power capacity sector of roughly 1,400 megawatts, which is projected to grow within the next three years nearly eight-fold by 2014. Supporting ABEEolica statistics, a study by IHS Emerging Energy Research states that Brazil is expected to have 31.6 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2025, which would make it Latin America’s leading producer of electrical energy generated by wind power.

International investors are already lining up to exploit the market, as lower production prices, government incentives and the country’s relentlessly increasing electricity demands open up opportunities for foreign investors.

Four months ago, at a government-organized power auction, developers of 44 wind farms won 39 percent of the total capacity, contracting for an average price of $62.91 per megawatt-hour, offering for the first time a price below the average for natural gas and hydroelectric bids for power generation.

German group Enercon subsidiary Wobben Windpower, established the first wind turbine factory in Brazil in the 1990s and under current contracts projects installing 22 wind farms with a total output of 554 megawatts by the end of next year.

Other companies joining the Brazilian wind power gold rush include Spain's Gamesa, Argentina's Impsa, Germany's Siemens, Denmark's Vestas, the U.S. firm GE Wind, India's Suzlon and France’s Alstom.

What is extraordinary about the southern hemispheric wind power rush is that Brazil is already in possession of massive hydroelectric and fossil fuel resources, but Brazil’s progressive government sees a diversification of the country’s energy mix to include an increasing amount of wind power production. Further supporting governmental policies, Brasilia is providing attractive incentives to entice a growing number of foreign companies to invest there.

Building on its already substantial indigenous presence, Alstom, with its current 40 percent market share in Brazil’s hydropower sector, earlier this month inaugurated a wind turbine manufacturing plant in the north-eastern state of Bahia in the industrial complex of Camacari near Salvador, Bahia's state capital. The $27 million Camacari facility will have an output capacity of 300 megawatts annually and generate 150 direct and 500 indirect jobs, providing an important contribution to the regional economy.

Alstom's Brazilian unit president Philippe Delleur said that while his firm’s intention is to equal its current 40 percent market share in Brazil’s hydroelectric sector, ”We won't achieve that tomorrow, but in 10-15 years we can. We are very ambitious in this (wind) sector, not only in Brazil but in the rest of Latin America.” Alstom Chairman and CEO Patrick Kron noted, “Today, Alstom reinforces its strategy of investing in renewable power and proves great interest in expanding markets, such as Brazil. This is just the beginning of a path we want to follow in the wind industry in Brazil and over Latin America.”

Currently most of Brazil's wind farms are located on land, and the nation’s greatest potential is in the country’s northeast, particularly in the states of Bahia, Rio Grande do Norte and Ceara, one of the nation’s poorest regions, whose suitability is due to fast wind speeds and low incidence of tornadoes or hurricanes.

And Brazil’s renewable energy future looks sunny-err, windy. According to Itau Unibanco Holding SA (ITUB4) analyst Marcos Severine, Brazilian power distributors may sign contracts to buy from developers as much as 2,000 megawatts of new capacity during the A-5 auction scheduled for 20 December, and wind farms may receive the majority of contracts to sell electricity the government’s organized auction due to a lack of projects using other energy sources.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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