Hydro-electric power: Vital source for Brazilian economy
Brazil has been an emerging economy for some years now. The country is investing massively in its main economic drivers, energy and infrastructure. This includes numerous hydro-electric plants, which have been built or are planned along the Amazon Basin. One of these, the UHE Santo Antônio hydro-electric plant, is currently under construction and is being equipped with fiber optic cables from HUBER+SUHNER for energy monitoring purposes.
Still economically underdeveloped in the late 90s, Brazil counts as an attractive future market today. Under the previous President Lula da Silva, the middle class grew and social programmes brought increased earning power to the poorest. This has been achieved through the exploitation of new oil fields and the associated strong economic growth of Brazil. The government has supported the population, which has resulted in improved living conditions for many. Around half of Brazilians now belong to the middle class. The government is also boosting the economy with an infrastructure programme to the tune of billions. Airports, roads, ports, railways and telecommunications networks are being modernised and the power grid is being continuously expanded. The 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics represent a huge investment potential for the country.
Electricity for 11 million people
Brazil, however, is not only famous for its raw materials and rich oil reserves, but also as a producer of alternative energy. Today, the country is the third-largest producer of hydro-electric power after China and Canada. Seventy additional hydro-electric plants are currently planned in the Amazon basin, 2500 new turbines are to be in operation by 2030.
The UHE Santo Antônio hydro-electric plant is currently under construction and is scheduled to be completed by 2015. It will be the sixth-largest energy producing plant in Brazil. The project is being built in the northwest of the country, some ten kilometres from the city of Porto Velho, along a stretch of the Madeira River. During the peak construction phase in 2011, more than 10,000 workers were employed at the site. Since the start of 2012, the power plant has been operating with two of a total of 44 turbines. Maximum capacity, with an output of 3,150.4 megawatts, is to be achieved in three years' time at the latest. At full output, the power plant will produce more than 19.5 million megawatt hours of electricity per year. Based on average consumption, the requirements of 11 million Brazilians will thus be covered, which corresponds to the population of São Paulo.
No water retention basins required
For six years, measurements were performed in order determine how the hydro-electric potential could be best exploited without excessively impacting the environment or the regional population. The Santo Antônio hydro-electric plant is therefore regarded as exemplary for the construction of sustainable hydro-electric plants and features the latest-generation, environmentally friendly technology. It is equipped with bulb turbines that enable the hydraulic power of the Madeira River to be harnessed for energy generation, without the need for high water retention basins to drive the turbines. The flooded area is significantly reduced thereby and the impact on the rain forest and river banks is reduced.
Energy monitoring with HUBER+SUHNER
Investments have also been made in energy monitoring for this gigantic structure. HUBER+SUHNER supplied the fiber optic master line system for connection of all the subsystems, switches and relays. By the end of the project, more than 200 customised fiber-optic cable systems will have been installed. The plug-and-play system can be used on-site without any further installation work. Especially in this region, which is isolated from civilization, simple handling and the associated reduction in installation costs were a convincing argument. So all that is left is to hope that hydro-electric power remains not only a vital source for Brazil's economy, but for HUBER+SUHNER as well.