Brazil Looks to Wind Power and Biomass in Crisis Situation

Brazil is looking at wind power and biomass to cope with the country’s serious power shortage caused by a severe drought.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, BR, 2001-08-07 [SolarAccess.com] Brazil is looking at wind power and biomass to cope with the country’s serious power shortage caused by a severe drought. Wind energy is one of the measures the government will examine to face the current electric energy crisis affecting the country, President Fernando Cordoza said recently at a climate change seminar. One windfarm in the northeastern state of Ceara will generate 1,000 megawatt-hours a day. Brazil generates 90 percent of its electricity from hydro dams, which are affected by the current drought. Of total power capacity of 74,000 MW, lower water levels has dropped that level to 56,000 MW. The government is planning to import natural gas from Bolivia to fire 50 thermal plants in a deal worth $7 billion, but that plan has been delayed due to regulatory uncertainties. A British developer of wind projects, Windforce Energy Development Limited, says it is waiting for the government to release the country’s official wind maps before it starts to design projects for the South American nation. Windforce was created two months ago by Shell and Enron, and has plans to invest $800 million in wind projects in Greece and Sweden. Brazil’s growing demand for power offers clear investment opportunities and the maps would identify the regions where such projects are feasible, explains Windforce managing director Shuan Kingsbury. Biomass is one of the cheapest renewable fuels as a result of the country’s agriculture sector, and annual sugar cane harvests of 300 million tonnes could generate 4,290 MW of power, or 6 percent of Brazil’s total, according to agriculture minister Marcus Pratini de Moraes. The output would cost R$1,140 per kilowatt of installed capacity, lower than gas-fired power plants, he says. The sugar industry already generates 4,100 GWh annually from crushed sugar cane (bagasse) to run refineries and ethanol distilleries. It has an immediate excess capacity of 200 MW and the government claims that investments of R$1.5 billion ($632 million) could push bagasse generation to 1,522 MW. By 2005, Windforce estimates that total global capacity of wind energy will rise to 52,000 MWh from the current 18,500 MWh.

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