Equinor to develop Brazil offshore wind park

Norway’s Equinor has started an environmental licensing process with regulator Ibama to develop a 4GW offshore wind project in Brazil.

“Considering water depth, we forecast the use of fixed turbines and we need permission to research the area to determine how the project might be developed,” the firm told BNamericas.

Although Equinor said it is still too soon to provide details on the project’s capacity and development schedule, local news reported that the park would involve two 2GW plants, 20km off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, in water depths between 15m and 35m. It would demand 320 turbines, with 12MW capacity each.

Brazil is expected to become a regional pioneer for offshore wind projects. Local company BI Energiawill invest 21bn reais (US$4bn) to develop the 598MW Caucaia wind power plant and the 1.2GW Camocim unit, both off the coast of Ceará state.

Ibama initially rejected the environmental licensing studies for the Caucaia plant, saying the necessary interventions and impacts of the project are not clearly defined. But BI Energia’s executive director, Lúcio Bomfim, said in a statement that the company will not give up.

Equinor has been interested in offshore wind projects in Brazil since 2018, when it signed an agreement with state-run Petrobras to develop the Ubarana offshore wind farm in the Potiguar basin, Rio Grande do Norte state. The farm’s capacity would be 6-10MW and startup was planned for 2022, but the companies have not reported any progress.

The plans are aligned with the Norwegian firm’s goal to increase its renewable installed capacity by 30 times worldwide and with its previous experience in offshore wind power projects in Europe. 

Brazil is at the center of this strategy. It was the first country where Equinor developed a solar power project, the 162MW Apodi solar complex in Ceará state, which came online in 2018, in partnership with Z2 Power, Pacto Energia, Kroma Energia and Scatec Solar.

The company first started producing oil in the country through its Peregrino field in Campos basin in 2011 and later added assets such as the Bacalhau field (formerly known as the Carcará discovery) and several offshore exploratory blocks in the Espírito Santo basin, among others.

“We see the potential for offshore wind power in Brazil, a country we consider essential for our company,” Equinox said in a statement.

This sector has also attracted oil and gas and electric power firms. Neoenergia has submitted a request to Ibama to build the Maravilha, Águas Claras and Jangada offshore wind farms. Total and Enauta told BNamericas last year that they are interested in similar projects.

A study by federal energy planning firm EPE showed Brazil has potential for 7TW in its exclusive economic zones, if it could develop all of it. Of the total, 700MW could be in shallow waters with wind speeds of 7-7.5m/s. Studies also highlight the possibility of integration between the oil and gas industry and the offshore wind segment, which could allow suppliers to serve both industries.

Brazil’s onshore wind power capacity has grown extensively. In 2010 it was 928MW and now tops 16GW with 637 parks and 7,738 turbines. Capacity will grow to 24.2GW by 2024, considering only the projects already contracted through the government’s power auctions and free power market contracts.