Hydroelectric resources in the semi-arid Northeast of Brazil will be exhausted about the year 2000. Unless viable alternatives can be found, relatively high-cost hydroelectric resources in the environmentally-sensitive North (Amazon) region will be tapped after 2000 to meet electricity demands in the Northeast. The Hydroelectric Company of Sao Francisco (CHESF), the federally-owned utility responsible for generation and transmission of bulk electricity in the Northeast, initiated studies in 1982 to quantify the potential for establishing a widespread biomass-based electricity generating system in its service territory as an alternative to hydro expansion. The analysis here builds on these studies, and includes the possibility of converting biomass into electricity using advanced gas-turbine technologies that are now the focus of commercial demonstration projects in Brazil and elsewhere. Existing sugarcane residues and future potential production of wood on dedicated plantations in the Northeast could be used to generate annually up to 41 TWh and 1400 TWh of electricity, respectively, compared to CHESF's present total annual generation of about 30 TWh. The cost of most of the biomass-derived electricity would be under 4.5 cents kWh-1, which compares favorably with marginal costs projected for hydroelectric projects in the Amazon region and would involve lower capital investment. Expansion of the CHESF system based on biomass rather than hydropower would also bring social benefits, including greater job creation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Biomass electricity
- gas turbine