In December the company signed a memorandum of intent with the government of the north-eastern state of Bahia to set up a wind turbine assembly facility with operations due to start in early 2011. The company already has a presence in Brazil, employing around 4000 workers for its hydroelectric and construction projects.
Alstom plans to invest BRL50 million ($28.7 million) in a factory with an annual capacity of up to 300MW per year. The company's products include 1.67MW and 3MW machines, though there is no confirmation yet of which turbine model it will build. As of October 2009, there were more than 1600 Ecotecnia wind turbines in operation in around 88 wind farms - most of which are in Spain - reflecting roughly 1780MW of total capacity.
The announcement of Alstom's first factory in Brazil comes following the country's first wind auctions held on December 14, in which contracts totalling some 1.8GW of capacity across the country were awarded. Bahia accounted for 18 projects out of the 71 approved, says Alstom.
Pedro Perrelli, executive director of the wind energy association Associacao Brasileira de Energia Eolica (ABEEolica), says that manufacturers are increasingly assessing options to start operations in Brazil. "Alstom is well positioned to supply turbines to the north-east and south of Brazil, as well as to ship equipment to the US via (the Brazilian city of) Salvador's port," he adds. However, the company has confirmed plans to open a factory in the US after recently receiving approval for lucrative tax credits from the US federal government, meaning it may not need to ship turbines there (see page 26).
Marcelo Picchi, director of Siif Energies do Brasil, a wind developer which is also active in the north-east of the country, is positive about Alstom's entry into Brazil. "This is good news; additional manufacturers will help Brazil's wind industry to develop," he says.
The news follows an announcement by US firm GE Energy that it intends to build 1.5MW turbines in the city of Campinas in Sao Paulo state (Windpower Monthly, December 2009). Germany's Siemens is also planning to produce turbines in Brazil, local financial newspaper Valor Economico reports. The new arrivals join Germany's Enercon and Argentinan energy company Impsa, which have already set up shop in the windy north-eastern region.
Miles Santiago, Impsa's communications manager, says that plenty of room exists for new turbine manufacturers. Impsa, which is supplying its own wind projects as well as customers in the wind energy auction, has a capacity to build 600MW of turbines per year and is eyeing an expansion beyond that to 900MW per year. It has already earmarked BRL220 million ($126 million) for its plans. Impsa is assessing other states, such as Minas Gerais, Santa Catarina, Ceara and Rio Grande do Norte, says Santiago.