‘Elec­tric­ity su­per­high­way’ tak­ing shape

The dam and UHV trans­mis­sion projects will power the de­vel­op­ment of Brazil’s en­ergy-hun­gry south­ern ar­eas.

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - By MAO PENGFEI in Mex­ico City For China Daily

For the Chi­nese, the an­nual Spring Fes­ti­val is a time to make the trek home for fam­ily re­u­nions, no mat­ter where in the world they hap­pen to be.

This year, how­ever, many Chi­nese work­ers and tech­ni­cians missed the hol­i­day to stay on in Brazil’s Ama­zon basin to keep work­ing on a large-scale pro­ject ex­pected to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the coun­try’s elec­tric grid.

Deep in the Ama­zo­nian rain forests of north­ern Brazil’s Para State, the world’s third- largest hy­dro­elec­tric dam — Belo Monte — is un­der con­struc­tion. Ex­pected to be com­pleted by Jan­uary 2019, it will de­liver elec­tric­ity to Brazil’s most densely pop­u­lated south­ern re­gion.

It’s an am­bi­tious plan, given the thou­sands of kilo­me­ters be­tween the dam and the com­mu­ni­ties it is set to sup­ply. But it’s fea­si­ble, thanks to China’s ul­tra-high-volt­age (UHV) di­rect cur­rent (DC) trans­mis­sion tech­nol­ogy.

In Fe­bru­ary 2014, a con­sor­tium formed by China’s State Grid Brazil Hold­ing and two Brazil­ian com­pa­nies won a bid to build and op­er­ate a 2,084-km trans­mis­sion line con­nect­ing the Belo Monte hy­dropower plant to the south­ern state of Mi­nas Gerais, near Sao Paulo, and con­verter sta­tions.

In July 2015, State Grid Brazil Hold­ing won a se­cond bid to build a 2,250-km trans­mis­sion line link­ing the power plant to the town of Nova Iguacu, near Rio de Janeiro.

The first UHV line, which is un­der con­struc­tion, will be the first “elec­tric­ity su­per­high­way” in Brazil and all of Latin Amer­ica.

If com­pleted, the dam and UHV trans­mis­sion projects will power the de­vel­op­ment of Brazil’s en­ergy-hun­gry south­ern ar­eas, said Xu Chang, State Grid’s lo­cal ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer on the pro­ject.

Brazil’s hy­dropower po­ten­tial ranks third in the world, af­ter Rus­sia and China. Al­most 80 per­cent of the en­ergy con­sumed in the coun­try orig­i­nates from hy­dro­elec­tric plants. And like China, Brazil is a coun­try with a vast ter­ri­tory whose en­ergy con­sump­tion cen­ters are far from where the re­sources are lo­cated.

The in­suf­fi­ciency and un­even dis­tri­bu­tion of elec­tric­ity has put new pres­sures on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Sta­tis­tics show the price of elec­tric­ity for home use in­creased by 50 per­cent last year.

The mam­moth “elec­tric­ity su­per­high­way” presents nu­mer­ous ob­sta­cles and chal­lenges.

Ac­cord­ing to Brazil­ian law, to start con­struc­tion, the pro­ject had to first un­dergo a se­ries of rig­or­ous tests, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal im­pact stud­ies, to get the needed per­mits from the Brazil­ian In­sti­tute of En­vi­ron­ment and Re­new­able Nat­u­ral Re­sources, the En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry, and other agen­cies.

Con­struc­tion started dur­ing Brazil’s rainy sea­son, with heavy rain al­most ev­ery af­ter­noon of­ten cre­at­ing de­lays.

Since en­ter­ing the Brazil­ian mar­ket, State Grid has es­tab­lished a plat­form for other Chi­nese com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing elec­tric equip­ment pro­duc­ers and builders.

“By co­op­er­at­ing with us on those projects, other Chi­nese com­pa­nies can save up to 10 years in en­ter­ing the Brazil­ian mar­ket,” said Qu Yang, deputy gen­eral man­ager of State Grid Brazil Hold­ing.

In ad­di­tion to the revo­lu­tion­ary change that UHV trans­mis­sion projects will bring to Brazil’s en­ergy matrix, lo­cal res­i­dents are di­rectly ben­e­fit­ting from the con­struc­tion projects.

The two trans­mis­sion lines, with a to­tal in­vest­ment of 15 bil­lion reais (US$4.7 bil­lion), are ex­pected to cre­ate around 34,800 jobs in Brazil, ac­cord­ing to govern­ment es­ti­mates.

“My home­town in the State of Para is not a very de­vel­oped area,” said Sara Barker, who works in hu­man re­sources at State Grid Brazil. “But this elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion pro­ject will make a dif­fer­ence. The first phase of the pro­ject will pro­vide 15,000 jobs.”

Con­struc­tion of the dam and trans­mis­sion lines has at­tracted tens of thou­sands of peo­ple liv­ing in nearby ar­eas, gen­er­at­ing a new con­sumer mar­ket.

The se­cond phase of the pro­ject will bring more Chi­nese equip­ment and in­vest­ment to Brazil, and pro­vide more jobs for lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, said Xu.

“This new 800kV pro­ject is State Grid’s first over­seas UHV DC trans­mis­sion pro­ject. It will be a model for China to help es­tab­lish a new global en­ergy net­work, and has strate­gic mean­ing for China to pro­mote its UHV tech­nol­ogy and equip­ment world­wide,” said Cai Hongx­ian, gen­eral man­ager of State Grid Brazil Hold­ings.

Bi­lat­eral en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion has yielded great re­sults in re­cent years, ac­cord­ing to Xie Wenze, a vis­it­ing scholar in Brazil from the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences. In­fra­struc­ture co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Brazil is mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial and should be fur­ther strength­ened, Xie added.

“The Brazil­ian govern­ment can count on in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment as a way to over­come the cur­rent eco­nomic re­ces­sion, and pro­mote eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment,” Xie said.

This elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion pro­ject will make a dif­fer­ence. The first phase of the pro­ject will pro­vide 15,000 jobs.”

Sara Barker, State Grid Brazil

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