Brazil grid bottlenecks to ease

Brazilian transmission operators Chesf and Extremoz Transmissora do Nordeste (ETN) are about to commission several substations and transmission lines they say will start to solve grid bottlenecks that have been delaying 1.7GW of new wind capacity.

The first block of transmission assets expected to come on line this month is the Igaporã II substation and its transmission lines in the state of Bahia, Chesf said.

In the northeastern states of Bahia, Rio Grande do Norte and Ceará, 72 wind parks are idle or incomplete due to lacking grid connection, despite having sold power at auctions in 2009, 2010 and 2011 with contracts that require them to start delivering power in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The government is paying a significant number of them since it considers that a lack of connection is not the developers' fault if projects are built on time.

The main delays arise from four substations and transmission line concessions that faced licensing, real estate and technical problems.

Once those problems are solved, large blocks of wind power plants will start feeding into the grid in the 12 months starting July 2014, according to sources within the transmission companies, data from the power regulator Aneel and the Power Sector Monitoring Committee (CMSE).

ETN said initial licensing delays arose from a lack of projects. But later, the biggest hurdle came from land owners asking for excessively high land use fees.

The start of Igaporã II's operations will allow the connection, by July, of 23 wind plants owned by renewable power company Renova Energia totaling 449.7MW.

Italy's Enel Green Power will also be able to start two other farms in the same region, with 56.4MW, while Spain's Iberdrola will be able to connect a further two, with a combined capacity of 60MW.

In the state of Rio Grande do Norte, ETN said that the João Câmara III substation and its transmission lines will be ready in two stages.

The first, should occur by the beginning of the second half, and the final stage, by October. The initial stage will allow the partial connection of the 27 wind power plants in the region by September, according to CSME.

These plants add up to 722MW and should be fully connected by January 2015, according CSME and ETN. The plants are owned by Atlantic Energias Renováveis, Copel, Contour Global, Energisa, CPFL Renováveis and Galvão Energias Renováveis.

In the northeastern state of Ceará a delay in the construction of the Ibiapina transmission system is holding back the start of operations of 270MW owned by Energimp, a unit of Argentina's Impsa, and of the 22MW Malhadinha wind plant owned by Brazilian independent power group Servtec.

Some of these wind farms sold power in the 2011 auction and should start in June this year, but will be delayed until 2015 when Chesf said the Ibiapina substation will be ready.

CMSE expects them to be fully operational in April 2015.

The fourth troublesome transmission system is called Morro do Chapéu II, in the state of Bahia. It is holding up the start of Enel Green Power's 90MW Cristal complex.

The three wind power plants that make up the complex sold power in 2011 and should have started operations in September 2013.  But, according to CMSE, they should be fully operational only in June 2015.

The current transmission connection problems for wind power will probably be the last, Élbia Melo, the executive president of the Brazilian Wind Power Association (Abeeólica), said.

Since 2013, wind power developers can only sell power in auctions if they can prove they will have a connection to the grid when the projects are complete.