21 September, 2011

A Surge of Wind Over Brazil

Brazil has suddenly realized the attractiveness of its immense wind power potential. Once deemed too expensive and small-scale, unable to meet the country’s power needs, it is now braced to grow sevenfold to 2014.

Brazil has today a dismal 1 gigawatt of wind power installed capacity. But the government’s regulatory agency has already approved an additional 6.7 gigawatts to 2014. Wind power got the largest share in the last energy auctions for new electricity capacity. Bid prices for wind were lower than those offered by gas-fired thermo projects. Wind farm bid prices have dropped 33 percent since 2009. The Brazilian regulatory agency estimates that wind farms could yield over 12 gigawatts in 2020. Experts and industry representatives have told me they expect wind farms to get a larger share of the electric power grid. They estimate that total installed capacity could almost triple from 2014 to 2020, nearing 20 gigawatts, provided the government does not hold investors back.

Several myths about wind power are falling down, and its many advantages are starting to show. The first to go was that it was far too costly. Today prices are lower than those for hydro and thermo power generation. An industry CEO told me, however, that these lower prices are in part a result of the European crisis. They could increase up to US$ .04 per Kw if the industry recovers in Europe and the United States. Even then, wind power would continue to be competitive.

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