Brazil mulls block starts for wind

As Brazil's wind sector gets ready to build 2GW of capacity a year, Brazilian wind power association ABEEólica is studying proposals that would allow projects to be started up in blocks -- potentially helping to avoid commissioning delays.

“We're discussing a way to allow wind farms to start up in smaller blocks instead of all at once,” Márcio Severi, chairman of ABEEólica's board tells Recharge.

ABEEólica wants to avoid logistics and components production bottlenecks that could arise as components for around 1,000 turbines a year are transported and installed – all of which must be concluded and start commercial operations on the same date.

For example, on 1 September 2015, 1.5GW of new wind power farms that sold power at last year's reserve auction will need to start operations. Four months later, on January 1, 2016, another 867MW of new projects will need to come online.

This means that developers will have to guarantee the assembly, transport and delivery of about 700 and 400 towers and machines respectively for each date.

According to Severi, this could cause a stress on the nascent industry that is ramping up production and is faced with thousand kilometer distances, often through substandard roads, and the necessity of scheduling cranes and other assembly equipment.

Road transport is the basis of Brazilian logistics, says Severi, since it has few railroads and lacks marine shipping.

The idea is to propose new regulations to allow wind power plants to start spinning turbines in smaller blocks over a longer time-period. Current legislation obliges developers to start all turbines at once and imposes fines for any delay.

This would allow for better planning, he said.

But Brazil's auction system is complex and diversified, meaning different solutions need to be thought up.

ABEEólica has already moved forward in its proposal for reserve auction contracts, since the wind farms that sold power at such auctions are not part of mainstay supply for the country. Therefore, a scaled start-up would not affect supply guarantees, explains Severi.

For normal auction PPAs, such as for the A-3 and A-5 tenders, wind developers would probably need to buy the power from a third party in the non-regulated market since these projects are key to the country's energy supply stability.

Severi said that ABEEólica officials are discussing how to avoid fines and supply problems, which would likely involve contract swaps, guarantees and compensation for price variations.