Brazil's Casa dos Ventos ramps up

Wind company Casa dos Ventos is almost eight years old, but only began its first project construction as a standalone developer last year.

Since the company was founded in 2007 by textile and construction group Valença, it has been preparing the terrain, gaining know-how in project planning, investing in real estate and making cash selling its share of projects — typically taking minority stakes of about 15% in joint ventures with companies such as Global, Chesf and Queiroz Galvão.

Casa dos Ventos struck out on its own last year, winning 600MW of contracts at auction.

"By 2013, we had already gone through a learning curve," says Lucas Araripe, Casa dos Ventos' business development director.

This year it hopes to seal a further 1GW of contracts — on the regulated and unregulated market — from its 15GW portfolio.

Since it was founded, the company has invested heavily in wind mapping and project planning, mostly in the interior of Northeastern states.

In 2009, it sold off some of those projects to companies such as CPFL Energias Renováveis and Queiroz Galvão Energias Renováveis.

"We always believed in scale, therefore went inland, moving away from more traditional coastal areas where projects would be limited in size due to housing and hotels and because of environmental restraints," he explains.

As part of its development strategy, Casa dos Ventos has invested in a meteorological-mast factory, which, according to Araripe, installs one tower every other day.

"We're striving for quality in our projects and maximum certainty, therefore we have increased the density of towers," he says.

Project sales have always been a winner for the company and Araripe claims that some 30% of all wind parks won in tenders since 2009 had been drawn up by Casa dos Ventos.

"We have 4GW that were planned here and are being built or developed by us and other companies," he says.

Behind this success, is its focus on clearing up issues involving real estate. Relying on an investment fund owned by Valença, the company has specialised in leasing or buying real estate in the Northeast.

It normally hires local people to negotiate with small farmers and communities, offering to pay a monthly fee for each wind measurement tower installed and leases of R$12 per hectare while wind projects are still in the planning stages.

In some cases, the land is bought. Araripe says this strategy generates loyalty from land owners, especially as it also involves legalising land titles. It also allows the developer to focus on construction, avoiding sometimes lengthy negotiations with landowners.

In the Araripe [sic] mountain range region, in Piauí state, where the company is developing 1.3GW across six wind complexes, Casa dos Ventos has already leased or bought 300,000 hectares — or more than 50% of the area's flat and windy highlands.