Latin American wind energy leader aims to join big boys

BRAZIL: It leads the Latin America market with about 800MW online, is expected to host over 1GW by year's end and has thousands of megawatts in its pipeline. In just a few years, Brazil has gone from a market with only one domestic wind turbine manufacturer and few imports to one that is attracting a range of serious manufacturers.

Argentina's Impsa is now manufacturing 1.5MW turbines in Brazil for its own wind projects. Suzlon has led foreign imports for multiple developers in the past two years, while GE Energy, Alstom and Fuhrlander have announced they will build wind turbine manufacturing facilities. Siemens and Vestas turbines are expected for some upcoming projects, which may entice the two giants to establish facilities in the country.

Growing energy needs and a supportive government drive the demand for wind. Most of the country's energy comes from hydropower, but it is increasingly difficult to gain construction permission for new dams, or to construct them. Growing energy demand puts wind in a favourable position to add capacity that complements hydropower.

A recent wind analysis (Windpower Monthly, Wind Power in Latin America Special Report, August 2010) shows a countrywide potential for 305GW of wind. Much of that is along Brazil's coast where most of the population is located, which minimises the cost of transmission lines.

The government has been pivotal in past years, creating demand for wind power and providing financial support through two separate programmes. Most wind online by mid-summer was supported by a policy called Proinfa that doled out long-term power contracts for qualifying wind projects.

The next evolution was a power contract auction programme that saw 1.8GW of projects win contracts last December. A second auction round in August was set to see another 2GW of secure contracts. There is a high likelihood the projects will eventually be built because companies participating in the auctions were required to meet a range of benchmarks, such as being well advanced in development and the construction permissions process. Most of the winning bids secured power contracts at commercially viable power prices.

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