The Belo Monte hydropower plant in Pará is expected to increase water flow in a section of the Xingu River in January to meet Ibama’s determination that will affect the project’s power generation. This emerges from a document from the Reuters news agency.
Ibama’s decision to identify a tentative change in plant flow, one of the largest in the world, was based on concerns about the environmental impact and local communities.
In a letter dated January 5th, Ibama Environmental Licensing Director Jônatas Trindade affirmed that by the end of January the agency will complete the assessment of the need to change the flow in the remaining months of 2021.
According to the document, Belo Monte will operate in January at a flow rate of 3,100 cubic meters per second on the so-called “reduced flow section” of the Xingu River.
This is practically three times as much as the originally defined flow rate of 1,100 cubic meters per second.
Wanted, Ibama did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Norte Energia, owner of Belo Monte, did not return immediately either. In addition to the mining company Vale, the company has companies from the Eletrobras regional group and the electricity companies Neoenergia, Cemig and Light as main partners.
ONS (National Electric System Operator), which manages the activation of power plants and transmission lines to meet energy needs, was concerned in December about the potential negative impact on Belo Monte’s generation due to the ongoing evaluations in Ibama.
The agency’s general manager Luiz Carlos Ciocchi told Reuters that a change in plant flow in 2021 would require switching on more thermoelectric plants with higher operating costs, which would impact energy consumers.
Ibama, on the other hand, said it had confirmed “an increase in the intensity of some pre-anticipated environmental impacts” for the hydropower plant, including “changes in fish populations, shipping, etc.”
With an installed capacity of 11.2 gigawatts, the Belo Monte plant received investments of over R $ 35 billion.
The new flow assumptions that are being evaluated at Ibama, if finally adopted, could significantly reduce the water flow to the Belo Monte turbines, mainly until May.
In February, for example, the plant would have to release a minimum monthly flow in the Volta Grande do Xingu of 10,900 m³ / s, compared to 1,600 m³ of the so-called “Consensus Hydrograph”, which was approved during the environmental approval of the project.
ONS estimated to Reuters that the average generation loss for the facility using the new electricity from January to July could be between 17.4 and 21.1 thousand megawatts, enough to power the Southeast / Midwest for about 15 days.