Brazil’s potential for power generation with wind farms installed at sea, a technology that is on the rise in the world but still unprecedented in the country, entered the radar of government technicians and companies such as the Norwegian oil company Equinor and the electric company Neoenergia, of the group Spanish Iberdrola.
The state-owned Energy Research Company (EPE) told Reuters it records seven offshore wind projects in national waters under licensing, which would add up to a total capacity of up to 15 gigawatts (GW) – close to the 16 GWs currently operating onshore.
The size of this portfolio of projects still under development, 80% concentrated in the two companies, shows the large numbers involved when it comes to the possibilities of this energy source, which involves larger turbines than conventional ones and manages to take advantage of stronger winds.
EPE estimates that Brazil could implement 700 GW in offshore wind farms when exploring depths up to 50 meters, which represents four times the country’s current installed power generation capacity. The most favorable areas for technology are divided between zones in the South, Southeast and, mainly, Northeast.
Neoenergia president Mario Ruiz-Tagle told Reuters there is still a long way to go before the first offshore projects get off the ground, as regulations for the source need to be defined, while high costs are also a barrier.
“There is a long time, at least ten years, being optimistic about seven. Our project is not immediate … we are looking at three regions. In Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro and Ceará. It is a technology that has space in Brazil for sure , the country has a gigantic coast “, he said.
Equinor also states that the bet on offshore plants in Brazil “is a long-term business” and depends on regulation, with its local projects in the initial phase of analysis.
“Brazil is very rich in natural resources, with great potential in oil and gas and renewables. We see a potential for offshore wind in Brazil, a country that we consider to be a central area for our company,” he said in a statement to Reuters.
Neoenergia, whose parent company Iberdrola is a global leader in offshore generation, has registered three wind projects on the Brazilian coast – Jangada, Maravilha and Águas Claras, each with 3 GW in potential capacity.
Equinor is in the initial phase of environmental licensing of two offshore parks with 2 GW each, of the Aratu complex.
EPE also registers a 1.2 GW project linked to BI Energia, from the Italian Imprese and Sviluppo, and the Asa Branca complex, with 400 megawatts, and Caucaia, with 600 megawatts.
Equinor does not comment on estimated values for its plants, nor does Neoenergia, which does not yet register relevant disbursements related to the project.
Iberdrola’s electric company plans to start more accurate wind measurements starting next year, with energy-powered equipment placed on the water. At the moment, it focuses on environmental licensing, also seen as complex due to the initiative’s originality.
In the Asa Branca project, for example, the Danish consultancy Ramboll was hired as responsible for environmental management, in a work that will be carried out in a consortium with the company of environmental solutions and hydrographic and geophysical data Cepemar and Integratio, of social mediation.
Petrobras also has Brazil’s wind potential on the radar, but has decided to focus its activities in the segment per hour on research and development initiatives.
The company told Reuters that “it has already carried out offshore wind mapping in the Northeast region and will map the potential of the Southeast coast”, while focusing on R&D efforts in seeking synergies from the source with oil and gas operations.
The state-owned company still has a memorandum of understanding with Equinor on offshore wind farms that remains valid and may yield initiatives in the research area “in the long term horizon”.
The cost of offshore wind farms is now, according to EPE, about twice as high as onshore projects, and experts say that the current exchange rate still increases this difference, but the state company says it sees “favorable prospects”.
EPE started to include technology among the alternatives for expanding generation in its 10-year planning since 2019, but at first it was not competitive.
In the Asa Branca project, the estimated budget of 13 billion reais would include an expansion to 720 megawatts, according to Ramboll. A plant of the same size on land would cost around 3.6 billion reais, according to average market estimates.
“Some studies point to possible reductions between 11% and 30% by 2030 in the total costs of this source,” said EPE, who also cited possible synergies with the oil and gas sector that could contribute to lower costs.
Worldwide, offshore wind farms have seen 67% cheaper prices since 2012, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with efficiency gains as the turbines gain size.
The MHI Vestas 10-megawatt machine, for example, which has been sold with deliveries since 2021, will touch 187 meters in height with its blades, which will add up to 80 meters in length.
Currently, offshore wind farms have seen rapid growth in China and Europe, in the North Sea region, and the expectation of EPE and companies is that international progress will help bring technology to more affordable prices.
Among all, there is also optimism driven by the trajectory of onshore wind energy in Brazil, which jumped from almost zero presence in the country’s electric matrix to 13.5% in a decade through a policy of incentives and auctions that has just been copied around the world.