Hydroelectric power is the main source of energy in Brazil to date, but with the recent draughts still affecting the country, it has been necessary to look at other sources. By 2040, Brazil is expected to attract US$ 300 billion in investments for electricity generation – most of it (70%) will go to solar and wind energy projects, according to a study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

The expansion of wind farms in the North-East has been important for the region, and it is where a good part of the $300bn investment is going. The BNEF study points out that $ 84 billion will go to wind farms compared to only $23 billion to hydroelectric projects. In 2015, Brazil is expected to overtake Germany in terms of wind power expansion, ranking second in the world just behind China.

Solar panels have been introduced in Morro Dona Marta, one of the Rio’s favelas. The project called Insolaris the brainchild of the economist Michel Baitelli and engineer Henrique Drummond. The project will have a more holistic approach than focusing on just panels themselves and is hoping to invest further in training the local residents.

“The idea is that people understand the project and get ready for this new idea, and [with the training]would become electricians, engineers or entrepreneurs to this new [solar energy] market”, explained Drummond the newspaper O Globo.

The project will not only bring financial benefits but also will allow people in the community to participate more in changing their environment. Drummond also added, “the moment you start having an entrepreneurial vision, doors will open and everything else is going to sort itself out”. The entrepreneurs have already chosen the first place for the solar panels – the nursery Mundo Infantil (Children’s World), a central location for that community.

Another community that received solar panels was Favela da Mangueira. Some of its residents had to be relocated to new residences already equipped with solar panels as part of Rio’s new urban development for the upcoming Olympics. It is a pilot project developed by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) and aims to use solar energy for water heating. The system has solar thermal collector panels consisting of units of two square meters and a hot water tank of 200 litres located at the roof of the buildings and the heated water from each unit is piped to an individual apartment.

Eva Ribeiro, one of the Favela da Mangueira residents that received new apartments said that despite being very apprehensive about paying high electricity bills, the project really helped her to cut costs on electricity bills.  She  said without it she would not be able to afford to have an electric shower, which is what most people use in the country. The following video tells more about the project and Eva’s journey into solar energy.

This post was originally featured on BRIC Plus magazine

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