First steps of offshore wind energy in Brazil

Brazil’s environmental regulator, Ibama, will hold the first public hearing next week to discuss the impact of an offshore wind power project.

The 576 MW Caucaia wind farm initiative, in the state of Ceará, was presented by the Italian company BI Energia. The project includes 59 wind turbines that could supply around 30% of Ceará’s electricity demand and could become the first offshore wind farm in Latin America.

The hearing comes at a time when state-owned Petrobras may want to postpone plans to build the Ubarana offshore wind farm in the Potiguar basin, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. The firm signed an agreement in 2018 with Norway’s Equinor to develop the wind project. The wind farm would have a capacity of between 6 MW and 10 MW and would start operations in 2022. Reports indicate that Petrobras could be studying a different offshore wind project and would have used research and development funds.

The offshore wind sector has attracted the attention of oil, gas and electric power companies. Neoenergia, a subsidiary of Iberdrola, filed an application with Ibama to build three offshore wind farms in Brazil: Maravilha, Águas Claras and Jangada.

A study conducted by EPE showed that Brazil could develop 700 GW in offshore wind projects in waters up to 50m deep. However, some of the main difficulties include the absence of a regulatory framework, which was barely discussed in 2018, the lack of a wind turbine supply chain and the need to adjust the ports to serve the industry. EPE highlights the possibility of integration between the oil and gas industry and the offshore wind segment, which could allow suppliers to serve both industries.

A challenge is the high costs associated with offshore wind energy projects, ranging from US $ 3,000 to US $ 6,000 / kW, or about 10 times more than offshore wind energy, according to the EPE study. High operation and maintenance costs for offshore projects are another obstacle. On the other hand, estimates show that offshore wind projects can produce 50% more electricity than similar land plants due to the higher speed and greater wind constancy. Brazil’s wind power generation capacity on land is currently 15.4 GW, which corresponds to 9% of the country’s total capacity, according to the Aneel regulator.