Brazil aims to be No. 1 in Latin American wind energy

HOUSTON — Brazil is making a big push to become Latin America’s king of wind.

The South American country, best known for its intensive investment in sugarcane-powered energy, is aiming to bulk up its wind portfolio, and could have more than 20,000 megawatts of wind power capacity in less than 10 years, according to a recent report by Navigant Research. That’s a dramatic increase from the roughly 3,000 megawatts of current wind generation capacity in Brazil, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The rapid growth would push Brazil’s wind power capacity to nearly double that of Texas. The state currently is home to about half of all U.S. wind production, about 12,000 megawatts of wind power. One megawatt is enough power for about 500 Texas homes under normal conditions.

Brazil opened its doors to international wind investment in its first wind-only auction in 2009, and since then has continued to seek additional investment, Navigant noted.

“Eight auction rounds since 2009 have awarded more than 8.5 gigawatts of wind power contracts in Brazil, which secures a robust development cycle for at least the next 5 years,” says Feng Zhao, research director with Navigant Research, in a written statement. “Brazil’s minister of energy believes that the country can reach 10 gigawatts of wind power installations by 2017 — 8 years ahead of the original plan.”

Brazil is not alone in its gusty ambitions. Mexico also plans to expand its wind generation capacity to 9,000 megawatts by 2022, which will make it the second largest wind producer in Latin America, according to Navigant.

The intended investment in renewable power is driven by steep climate change goals that were passed in 2012. Mexico’s targets call for 35 percent of its electricity to come from renewables by 2024 — a dramatic increase from the 2.5 percent of electricity that Mexican renewable energy currently provides.

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