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When Brazil’s PT Party won the presidency, it brought with it the certainty that a country in pursuit of sustainable development should invest in an energy matrix that is increasingly clean and renewable.
In this sense, the efforts of presidents Lula and Dilma have stimulated the growth and consolidation of the production of clean and renewable energy – some, which have a long-established history in Brazil, such as alcohol and ethanol, while others are on the rise, such as wind. From 2006 to 2013, wind generated energy in Brazil grew by an impressive 829%.
In mid-2014, with approximately 3,700 megawatts (MW), wind power’s share in the Brazilian energy matrix had reached the range of 2.88% of the total. The sector now has 181 wind energy projects, whose total installed capacity is 4,500 MW.
The expectation is that, by the end of 2018, the installed capacity will jump to around 13,500 MW, which is enough energy to power over 20 million homes.
Brazil’s average annual investments in wind farms, which had been approximately R$ 10 billion (US$ 3.5 billion), is expected to rise to R$ 23 billion (US$ 8.1 billion) in 2014.
In 2006, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, the Osório wind farm went into operation. With 150 MW of installed capacity, it was, at that time, the largest wind power generation complex in Latin America. In April of that year, President Lula was on site to inaugurate operations at the first tower. By December of that year, 75 towers had been installed. However, by the close of 2015, Rio Grande do Sul will be home to a wind farm that will assume the title of largest in Latin America – the Campos Neutrais Wind Complex. Located in the extreme south of the state, it consists of the Geribatu, Chuí and Hermenegildo wind farms. This R$ 3.5 billion (US$ 1.2 billion) wind hub will have a total of 302 wind turbines and an installed capacity of 583 MW.
Brazil is the country with one of the greatest potential for hydroelectric power generation in the world and it has advanced technologies for these types of projects. Plants that were built most recently, such as Santo Antonio and Jirau (along the Madeira River in the state of Rondônia), and Belo Monte (along the Xingu River in the state of Pará), have adopted run-of-the-river systems that feature reduced-size reservoirs, which means less flooded areas.
Power generation will vary according to the quantity of water that flows from the river over the course of any given year. Such plants generate more energy in times when their rivers are full and less during dry spells. In addition, the new plants produce power using bulb turbines, which are among the largest in the world today. In sum, these facilities can produce more power with smaller flooded areas by the dam of the river.
Looking at these facilities comparatively, Belo Monte will have an installed capacity of 11,200 MW and a reservoir whose area is only 516 km2, Santo Antonio will have an installed capacity of 3,500 MW, with a 345 km2 reservoir, while Jirau’s 3,750 MW of installed capacity is fed by a 258 km2 reservoir.
As for plants built in prior decades, the state of Amazonas’ Balbina facility and Tucuruí, in the state of Pará have much larger flooded areas, yet they generate less electricity. The Balbina reservoir is 2,360 km2, which generates only 250 MW, while Tucuruí’s 2,500 km2 reservoir feeds an installed capacity of 8,300 MW.
Read and watch the story about the artificial canal that was built at the Santo Antonneio hydroelectric complex, located along the Madeira River in the state of Rondônia, which will allow catfish and other fish to spawn