With nearly 8,000 kilometers of coastline, Brazil has immense potential for one of the most modern renewable energy sources: offshore wind power.
Brazil is one of the countries highlighted in a recent study published by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, for its potential to harness this energy source from fixed or floating turbines installed in the sea. The study also examines India, Morocco, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam, which together with Brazil have 3.1 terawatts of wind power potential in areas within 200 kilometers of the coast. That is approximately three times the installed electricity capacity in the European Union combined. Of the total, 1.2 terawatts is in Brazil’s offshore.
“We chose countries that we believed had more interest and resource potential. Brazil is highly active in wind power and although it still has considerable onshore potential to explore, the government has expressed a keen interest in offshore development,” said ESMAP Senior Energy Specialist Oliver Knight, one of the study’s authors.
Over the past year, the World Bank Group and the Brazilian government have participated in joint events and studies in offshore wind power, including creating a map of the country’s offshore wind power potential. The partners will continue to analyze ways to exploit this potential throughout 2020.
Before considering the future of offshore wind power, it is important to understand where, how, and why this technology became viable, including in Brazil.
Europe has been at the forefront of this technology since the first offshore wind farm was erected in 1991 off the coast of Vindeby, a coastal town in eastern Denmark. The farm had 11 turbines, each generating 450 kilowatts for a total capacity of nearly 5 megawatts (MW). Although it was closed in 2017, Vindeby paved the way for the construction of offshore wind farms throughout Europe. From 2000 to 2010, the system continued to expand in the southern part of the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Baltic Sea, regions with strong winds. The United Kingdom today has the largest and lowest-priced offshore wind industry in the world, with an accumulated capacity of 8.5 gigawatts (GW).
Worldwide, the offshore wind power sector has grown nearly fivefold since 2011, with 23 GW of installed capacity at the end of 2018.
Despite this expansion, offshore turbines have remained largely confined to Europe and China. This is because building offshore farms is more complicated, expensive, and slower than onshore farms. It takes two to three years to build an onshore wind farm from start to implementation, at costs ranging from $1 million to $2 million per project. An offshore wind farm, by comparison, takes five and 10 years to build and costs $10 million to $50 million.