(Valor) World leader in wind turbines, Danish Vestas intends to be an important player in the Brazilian offshore wind energy market. This new front has started to engage and should gain regulation by the end of the year.
In an interview to Valor, the company’s global CEO, Henrik Andersen, highlighted offshore wind and green hydrogen as fundamental technologies for the global energy transition process and which, in his assessment, will find fertile ground in Brazil.
The executive met two weeks ago with the minister of Mines and Energy, Bento Albuquerque, at COP26, in Glasglow, before arriving in Brazil for a series of meetings. According to Andersen, the Brazilian government should launch a “realistic” program for offshore wind, both in terms of agenda and in terms of installed capacity. For him, the commitments indicated by the minister may make viable, in a few years’ time, the local production of wind turbines aimed at these projects.
Currently, Vestas has an industrial unit in Aquiraz (CE), where it manufactures wind turbines with up to 4.2 megawatts (MW) of power for onshore plants, a model that has adapted well to Brazilian winds. Offshore equipment, however, has another scale: they can reach up to 15 MW. And the rotor diameter easily exceeds 200 meters. Therefore, to manufacture them, investments in new production lines would be necessary.
“If countries say they are going to build ‘a few’ offshore wind farms a year, we think: ‘wrong plan’. Either you build gigawatts a year, or you won’t get the private commitment and investment. Basically, I would need to install around 74 turbines a year, or 1 GW, for local production to make sense,” he explains.
The market is eagerly awaiting the release of a decree for offshore wind power, promised by the end of this year or beginning of 2022. The MME has given few details about its plans for the new energy source, but has already announced that it will include it in the Plan Energy Decennial (PDE) – 2031. According to the government’s mapping, the offshore potential in Brazil is 700 GW, four times higher than the country’s installed capacity from all sources. Even without yet having regulatory bases, several companies already have projects in the licensing phase at Ibama, such as Neoenergia and Equinor.
While business in the new source does not materialize, Vestas is betting on a significant increase in the demand for renewable energy in the long term, not only in Brazil but throughout Latin America. The region has been gaining more relevance for the group – so much so that, as of 2022, the manufacturer will operate with a specific business unit for Latin America, reporting directly to Andersen.
“Brazil is one of the first countries that I am visiting together with the commercial vice president after the ‘lockdown’. It will definitely be among the top five markets for Vestas worldwide,” says the executive. The manufacturer is studying the potential for growth in long-term demand to decide on new investments in expanding the plant in Ceará. “The last thing you want is an idle factory.”
In Andersen’s view, Brazil has sensible goals for the expansion of renewable energies, balancing them with transitional fuels such as gas. For him, “down to earth” plans inspire more confidence in the private sector than radical initiatives to quickly retire sources such as coal. “Today we need all sources, the world is consuming more energy than renewables can provide. We are in a transition from traditional fossils to renewable ones, and I don’t think we will have completed that transition in 30 years.”
Another global bet by Vestas is green hydrogen, a technology that could transform the wind turbine business in the future. The Danes have been studying hydrogen for years in partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. “The technology already works on smaller scales. We believe that this industry will happen until 2030, but it will not be in 2022”.
Founded in 1945, Vestas has more than 145 GW of turbines installed in 85 countries. At the end of the third quarter of this year, its order book totaled 24 GW, corresponding to €19.3 billion.