Votorantim Industrial SA, a Brazilian industrial conglomerate that expanded into renewable energy three months ago, is planning to triple its wind capacity by next year, part of a long-term effort to eventually own 1 GW of clean power plants.
The company’s purchase in June of a 206 MW wind farm in the northeastern state of Piaui also came with an option to acquire another 400 MW of wind projects from the developer, Casa dos Ventos Energias Renovaveis SA. Votorantim has decided to move ahead with those purchases, Fabio Zanfelice, chief executive officer of the Sao Paulo-based company’s Votorantim Energia unit, said in an interview in his office on Oct. 8.
He plans to focus on selling energy into Brazil’s spot market, where prices have skyrocketed since a record drought in 2013 curtailed output from some of the country’s hydroelectric dams. That’s prompted industrial companies to sell their surplus energy and invest in new power plants.
"We are focused on renewable energy development," Zanfelice said. “Wind energy is the most competitive technology in Brazil right now.”
Votorantim also has a pipeline of about 15 small hydroelectric plants under development throughout Brazil, totaling 300 MW. Zanfelice said he expects the company to have at least 1 GW of installed renewable capacity within a decade.
Votorantim Industrial has operations in 20 countries and produces cement, metals, orange juice and wood pulp, according to its website. After a planned expansion in the metals group was halted about three years ago, the company began producing more energy than it needed for its own industrial production, according to information provided by its press office.
The company is now Brazil’s fifth-largest energy trader. It has 33 big hydroelectric plants and five thermoelectric plants, with 2.6 GW, most of which is used to power its own operations.
"Votorantim Energia is a start up inside the group,” Zanfelice said. “Now that we are building our first energy asset to be completely directed to the market, we want to generate cash to invest in new projects."
Votorantim will invest 1.13 billion reais ($300 million) for its first seven wind parks in Piaui. The company won a 20 year-contract in an energy auction in August, and is now seeking a loan from the country’s development bank BNDES.
Brazil added 2.8 gigawatts of wind power last year, boosting its total installed capacity by 82 percent to 6.2 gigawatts, according to the World Wind Energy Association.
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