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Renewable Energy Across the Globe: South America

Great steps have been made across the globe toward adopting more environmentally conscious energy sources. How each continent makes use of their varied resources is what sets them apart from each other.
Here’s what’s happening in South America:

Perhaps the most notable example of renewable energy use in South America is Brazil, where over 85% of domestic electricity is produced from renewable sources.

Only approximately 15 MW of solar power has been installed in Brazil, less than 0.01% of the national electricity demand. Columbia has 6 MW of solar power installed and Honduras has approximately 25 kW.

Brazil has an installed capacity of wind power of over 600 MW, enough to power around 300,000 residences. A further 1,800 MW was contracted from 71 wind power plants, to begin generation mid-2012. Columbia has the best wind regime in South America, however, with a theoretical power potential of over 21 GW—more than twice the national electricity demand. So far, only about 20 MW have been taken advantage of. Several new projects are in development, however, such as a 200 MW wind park in Ipapure. Wind energy potential in Honduras varies widely due to the geographic landscape, but a 100 MW project is currently under construction.

Most of Brazil’s energy comes from hydroelectric power plants. The world’s largest hydroelectric dam is the Itaipu Dam on the Paraná River between Brazil and Paraguay. This dam alone provides 75% and 25% of Paraguay and Brazil’s electricity needs, respectively.  Columbia meet’s 70% of its energy needs with hydroelectric power; the total hydropower potential for the country is estimated to be over 90 GW. Honduras meets 33% of its energy needs with hydroplants, with over 500 MW of installed hydroelectric capacity. There are 16 projects underway which will add a further 206 MW of hydroelectric power to Honduras’ grid.

Little has been done with geothermal energy in South America to date. Three areas with potential for geothermal power generation have been identified in Columbia so far. There are three projects planned in Honduras to install almost 86 MW of geothermal capacity. The largest is expected to generate 355 GWh of energy per year.

Brazil makes use of energy from biomass in the form of using refuse sugarcane to produce electricity. This energy fulfills 27% of Brazil’s electricity demands. Brazil has also experienced success with flexible-fuel vehicles and there is a mandatory use of E25 blend fuel (25% ethanol-from-sugarcane). Columbia generates 16 GWh per year from biomass, although this is less than 0.1% of the national electricity production. Columbia has a far greater potential for energy from biomass from landfills (47 MW alone) and agricultural waste products like banana peels, coffee pulp, and animal waste. Honduras has a total of almost 82 MW installed biomass capacity across nine different projects, supplying a little over 2% of the national demand.

Want to know what’s happening in the other continents? Check below:

Africa – lots of untapped potential
Antartcica – yes, even in Antarctica
Asia – find out how Japan is doing in response to the Fukushima nuclear accident and where the rest of Asia is at renewable energy
Australia – hydroelectricity accounts for almost 60% of their renewable energy
Europe – guess which country has the first commercial wave farm
North America – who is the world’s largest wind producer, Canada, Mexico or the United States?
South America – find out why it is the leader in electricity from renewable sources.


Kathryn Hannis

Kathryn spent the first half of her life in Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States. Then, just as she was about to begin her freshman year in high school, her family uprooted and transplanted to The Hague, the Netherlands, Europe. Kathryn studied Environmental Engineering at NAU, in Flagstaff, Arizona, and then later moved back to the Netherlands to get a Master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Technology.

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