NATAL, Brazil – Wind energy has gained ground rapidly in recent years in Brazil, helping the South American country climb to No. 8 in the rankings with an installed generating capacity that has grown fifteenfold in the past decade.
Latin America’s largest country has gone from having 1 GW of installed generating capacity in 2010 to 15.1 GW this year, with 600 wind farms operating in 12 states, according to the latest figures from the Brazilian Wind Energy Association (ABEEolica).
Wind energy is gaining market share, accounting for 9.2 percent of electricity generation, a figure that is well behind the 60.3 percent held by hydroelectric power.
The renewable energy source still has room to grow despite its big gains in Brazil, experts said, noting that installed wind-generating capacity could hit nearly 19.4 GW by 2023 based on recent auctions of concessions and delivery contracts signed.
“We have very big growth prospects. We see wind and solar as the energy sources that are going to grow the most in Brazil over the next 30 years,” ABEEolica president Elbia Silva Gannoum told EFE.
Despite the gains made in recent years due to technological advances, improved competitiveness and good prospects for the future, Silva said Brazil’s economic weakness has held back the industry by reducing the number of electricity contracts entered into at regulated auctions.
Brazil experienced a severe recession between 2015-2016, with the gross domestic product (GDP) contracting by about six percentage points. The economy grew just 2 percent between 2017-2018.
The economic outlook for this year remains weak and private sector analysts expect the GDP to grown by an anemic 0.80 percent.
“The economy is making things difficult when there’s economic growth we’re going to have bigger growth in the sector. Nevertheless, we have a market that is growing enough, on average, and with very good future prospects,” the ABEEolica president said.
The northeast region is home to the majority of the wind farms in Brazil, a country that has favorable weather conditions for operating wind turbines, with regular and intense winds.
In Rio do Fogo, a city in Rio Grande do Norte state, Spain’s Iberdrola opened its first Brazilian wind farm in 2006, launching a big push into wind energy that increasingly gained ground over the past decade.
Iberdrola, which operates in the South American country via its Neoenergia unit, currently has 17 wind farms located in Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba and Bahia, all located in northeastern Brazil, with installed generating capacity of 516 MW.
The company has 15 more wind farms under construction in the South American country.
Once all the projects are completed in 2022, Iberdrola’s wind power portfolio should total 1 GW of generating capacity.
Iberdrola’s wind projects have grown in tandem with the industry in Brazil, where a domestic supply chain is now in place and six manufacturers are making wind turbines.
“These suppliers have experienced technological changes that have helped increase their competitiveness and they can now compete with the cheapest (energy) source, which is hydroelectric, whose resources are being exhausted,” Silva said.