An Irish Civil Engineering professional's perspective from Brazil

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Wind Power in Brazil: great potential, even better opportunities!

Brazil held its first wind-only energy auction in 2009, in a move to diversify its energy portfolio… and foreign companies scrambled to take part.

Some background

Soon after the millennium, a drought in Brazil that cut water to the country’s hydroelectric dams prompted severe energy shortages.

The crisis, which ravaged the country’s economy and led to electricity rationing, underscored Brazil’s pressing need to diversify away from water power.

The bidding is expected to lead to the construction of two gigawatts of wind production with an investment of about US$ 6 billion over the next two years.

Brazil counts on hydroelectricity for more than 3/4 of its electricity, but authorities are pushing biomass and wind as primary alternatives.

Wind energy’s greatest potential in Brazil is during the dry season, so it is considered as a good bet against low rainfall and the geographical spread of existing hydro resources.

Brazil’s technical potential for wind energy is 143 gigawatts due to the country’s blustery 4,600-mile coastline, where most projects are based.

The Brazilian Wind Energy Association and the government have set a goal of achieving 10 gigawatts of wind energy capacity by 2020 from the current 605 megawatts, with another 450 megawatts under construction.

The industry hopes the auction will help kick-start the wind-energy sector, which already accounts for 70% of the total in all of Latin America.

Plenty of Windfarms, mainly in the North East of the country... however many more are planned in the rest of Brazil.

Wind power in Brazil amounts to an installed capacity of 602 MW at the end of 2009, enough to power a city about 300,000 residences.

The 36 windparks and windfarms in the country, in 2009, were located in Northeastern Brazil (5 States), Southern Brazil (3 States), and Southeastern Brazil (1 State).

Potential of wind in Brazil is more intense from June to December, coinciding with the months of lower rainfall intensity.

This puts wind as a potential supplementary source of energy generated by hydroelectricity.

As of 2009, 10 projects were under construction, with a capacity of 256 MW. In 2010, 45 started construction to generate 2,139 MW, in several States around Brazil.

The U.S. company General Electric has one plant in Brazil, in the city of Campinas, and one partnership with Tecsis in Sorocaba, meeting the demand of the new projects.

While the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) was taking place in Copenhagen, Brazil’s National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL) held the country’s first ever wind-only energy auction.

On December 14 2009, around 1,800 megawatts (MW) were contracted with energy from 71 wind power plants scheduled to be delivered beginning from July 1, 2012.

While focusing domestically on wind-energy generation, Brazil is part of a larger international movement toward wind power as a primary source of energy.

In fact, wind power has seen the highest expansion rate of all available renewable energy sources, with an average growth of 27% per year since 1990, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

Government support for renewable energy

Brazil’s first wind-energy turbine was installed in Fernando de Noronha Archipelago in 1992.

Ten years later the government created the Program for Incentive of Alternative Electric Energy Sources (PROINFA) to encourage the use of other renewable sources, such as wind power, biomass, and Small Hydroelectric Power Stations (PCHs).

Such stations use hydropower, the flagship of Brazil’s energy matrix, which comprises around three-quarters of Brazil’s installed energy capacity.

High energy production costs, coupled with the advantages of wind power as a renewable, widely available energy source, have led several countries to establish regulatory incentives and direct financial investments to stimulate wind power generation.

Growth of wind energy in Brazil

Since the inception of PROINFA, Brazil’s wind energy production has escalated from 22 MW in 2003 to 602 MW in 2009, as part of 36 private projects. Another 10 projects are under construction, with a capacity of 256.4 MW, and 45 additional projects have been approved be ANEEL with an estimated potential of 2,139.7 MW.  Developing these wind power sources in Brazil is helping the country to meet its strategic objectives of enhancing energy security, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs. The potential for this type of power generation in Brazil could reach up to 145,000 MW, according to the 2001 Brazilian Wind Power Potential Report by the Electric Energy Research Center (CEPEL).

Average Annual Wind Velocity - Brazil.

As you can see comparing these wind velocities and the previous map of current and planned projects… there are many areas of high potential (yellows and reds) which do not yet have windfarms installed or even planned past a concept stage.


The cost of energy production continues to pose a significant challenge to the growth of wind energy. The price per megawatt hour (MWh) established in Brazil’s auction of wind power reserve supply is R$189, while the cap defined in bidding for power plants of the Madeira River Hydroelectricity Complex was R$91 (UHE Jirau) in 2008, and R$122 (UHE Santo Antonio) in 2007. These hydroelectricity prices were marked down by up to 35% in the 2008 and 2007 auctions; the energy supply was negotiated at R$71.4/MWh in the case of Jirau, and R$78.9/MWh for the Santo Antonio plant.

Canoa Quebrada Windturbines

A passing bus near Canoa Quebrada, Brazil, demonstrates the size of modern wind turbines.

To conclude… there is no conclusion.

Wind in Brazil is an ongoing subject, and I believe that Wind should be developed in as a priority source of energy. Even more so than Brazil’s hydro-electric system, and as is currently being debated in Congress in Brazil how it may have negative consequences on indigenous reserves by means of extensive flooding. This I will discuss at length in another article.

Let’s see if Brazil will not forget about Wind Energy now that Petrobras has made such lucrative finds of Oil and Gas offshore of Rio.

I am hopeful.

However if we wish to play a part in Brazil’s future… then we need to be in it, to win it!

Recent offshore Oil and Gas developments in Brazil

Recently, there have been a few tell-tale signs that the Oil & Gas industry in Brazil, is not far from realising its potential.


Hermod completes Peregrino heavy lift.

Statoil has completed a heavy lift of two wellhead platforms on the Peregrino field offshore Brazil using the vessel Hermod. The development is the group’s largest offshore project outside the Norwegian continental shelf.

Hook-up and completion are under way. The company plans to begin 30 horizontal production and seven water injection wells later this year.

The field’s FPSO is scheduled to arrive for hook up and commissioning in the coming months. Maersk is constructing the vessel at the Keppel Shipyard in Singapore. The FPSO’s mooring systems are in place following an installation program by the offshore construction vessel Boa Deep earlier this year.

Peregrino is 85 km (53 mi) off the coast of Brazil in a water depth of up to 100 m (328 ft). First oil is anticipated in 2011 and will continue up to 2040, Statoil says.

Sevan Driller arrives in Brazil.

The Sevan Driller arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday, March 27, says Sevan Marine. The ultra deepwater drilling unit will undergo custom clearance and acceptance testing by Petrobras before beginning operations under a six-year contract.

Petrobras downgrades project portfolio for 2011-2014.

Petrobras has decreased its project portfolio investment for 2011-2014 from $148 billion to $139 billion.

The company’s board has approved $257 billion worth of projects for after 2014. According to the company, the investments aim to increase oil and natural gas production, taking advantage of success in the post- and pre-salt, and exploratory activities.

The E&P project portfolio includes construction of production platforms and drilling rigs, support vessels, and investments in transportation infrastructure.

Renewable Energy news

Lanxess Completes “Sugar Cane” Power Plant In Brazil.

Image via Wikipedia

Ecologically grown sugarcane in Brazil for production of enthanol

Specialty chemicals group Lanxess has completed a cogeneration plant to produce steam and power from biobased sources at its iron oxide facility in Porto Feliz, Sao Paulo state, Brazil. The plant runs on sugarcane bagasse.

Ethanol produced from the sugar in sugarcane, is also very popular in Brazil as an alternative fuel for vehicles. Most “petrol stations” here stock it alongside the other common fuels. Being cheaper than petrol and diesel, it is of course popular. However it does not perform as well as the more traditional options. Roughly lasting 75% of the distance that diesel would get you.


Brazil Backs $4-Billion Peruvian Hydropower Project

A Brazilian-backed proposal to build a 2,000-megawatt hydroelectric plant in the Peruvian Amazon has gained momentum in recent weeks as the government of the Andean nation has thrown its weight behind the effort.

Let’s hope that this project is handled as carefully as it should be. The Amazon Basin is a unique resource, and it has endured enough damage through man’s actions. I am assured that projects in this region are now strictly planned and maintained to preserve the environment of the Amazon. This may be true for the majority of the Basin, which is in Brazil, however I sincerely hope that Peru will take a similar attitude when embarking on this project.


Brazil is the world’s tenth largest energy consumer with much of its energy coming from renewable sources, particularly hydroelectricity and ethanol; non-renewable energy is mainly produced from oil and natural gas. A global power in agriculture and natural resources, Brazil experienced tremendous economic growth over the past three decades. It is expected to become a major oil producer and exporter, having recently made huge oil discoveries.

More news coming soon, on these (soon to be operational) Oil fields.

Brazil plans High-Speed Rail

As I previously mentioned on this blog, there are plans for a high-speed (circa 350kph) rail service to be in place for the upcoming World events in Brazil (2014 & 2016). Stretching for just over 500km, it will link the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, including stops at their respective international airports. Construction costs are estimated in the area of $19 billion (circa €14 billion, or circa R$34 billion).


There is no national rail network in Brazil today, however there was a limited rail route around some major port cities a century ago. This network is now used to a certain amount for freight transport. Now to start a modern rail network is no small feat, without even having a widespread existing (if outdated) national network. Especially considering that Brazil is such a huge country (fifth largest in the world), and has a population of circa 192 million people (also fifth largest in world).

I have to say, I admire the aspirations that Brazil is pursuing. This is an example of how Brazil is affirming itself on the international stage, through it’s forward-looking investment and a determined positive attitude. In my opinion, many countries could learn much from the approach Brazil demonstrates in this respect.

The proposed high-speed train line will be operating in a corridor which contains the most populous areas in the whole country. It is estimated that circa 18.75% of the Brazilian population reside in this future rail corridor. This area of Brazil also accounts for generating a third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The latest industry rumours suggest that it may not reach completion before Brazil hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup. More than likely it will now only be operational by the 2016 Rio Olympics.

First Trip to São Paulo

Despite the 43 days of torrential rain that had hindered the planning of my trip to São Paulo, I got there without encountering a flood even once. It was quite an adaption to be in such an enormous metropolis. São Paulo (SP as it is known) has a population of 11.04 million people (and rising) and covers an area of 1,522,986 km²… therefore there is a population density of approximately 7,200 inhabitants/km².  The city boasts an impressive and efficient Metro system, I was more than happy to use it whenever necessary. However, in my opinion it could be better if it served a larger amount of the city. As it is, the Metro only covers the needs of the central areas. This being said, there is of course an extensive Public Transport system in the form of Bus routes to any place you require. Adjacent to the Tietê River (in North Central SP) is the Tietê Bus Terminal… apparently the second biggest bus terminal in the world. There is no national rail network in Brazil at the moment, however I have been informed that there are plans to link Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo with a high-speed inter-city train in the future. So, that’s SP in a nutshell… I could continue describing the city at length, but I think I’ll leave that for another Post.

My main motivation in travelling to SP was to gain an insight into the atmosphere and opinions which exist there, as there are many large Engineering firms operating out of SP. Not to mention the numerous multi-nationals which have made the city their base for South America also.

While there, I held a meeting with Instituto de Engenharia do Brasil (Institute of Engineers of Brazil). I received a friendly & enthusiastic welcome from the Institution, and I am taking this opportunity to thank the Senior Management of Instituto de Engenharia for the commendable manner in which they hosted me. In my opinion this was a very productive meeting, as we found many areas of mutual interest. Notably the further development of communication and co-operation between Instituto de Engenharia and Engineers Ireland. I believe this is a beneficial relationship for both professional bodies… and thus to both organisations’ members as a whole.

We also discussed the process of registration for Engineers in Brazil. There is a Government Department called CREA, which is responsible for this function (as well the registration of non-Brazilian Engineers of course). The process can apparently take from 6 months to 1 year, before you are issued with a Licence to practise Engineering in Brazil. I will research this in more detail, and post updates accordingly in the future.

Parallel to this, I had discussions with various Engineering professionals,who informed me of their opinions on the industry in SP and their own views on the future for Brazilian Engineering in general. The foremost theme of these discussions was the development which would be generated by the World Cup (2014) and the Rio Olympics (2016). As well as the unique position Brazil now holds in terms of foreign investment opportunities, and the resulting effect this will have on the economy. The mood amongst those I talked to was primarily of optimism and innovation for the future in Brazil. I have to say, I have noticed on many occasions the ingenious way in which Brazilians can form solutions to whatever they encounter… so apply this rare trait to an opportuniy such as Brazil has, and the results could be spectacular.

Overall, I am very satisfied with my trip to São Paulo and I plan to return there soon to follow-up on my activity so far. As well as meeting individuals who have since expressed an interest in discussing  the Brazilian Engineering industry with myself.

Please visit the websites of the various organisations to familiarise yourself more…

PS: If you ever visit São Paulo on business, try to avoid wearing a dark suit, as it can be very hot in the midday sun.

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