Wind turbine assembly in The Oitis Complex (PB)
Piúga, as 75-year-old rural producer Luiz Cardoso Filho is known, was burning mandacaru (cactus common in the Brazilian northeast which often grows up to 5 m high) to feed cattle in 2008 when he received a visit that would change his life and the region of Santa Luzia, municipality of Cariri in Paraíba. They were technicians who were beginning to study the feasibility of harnessing the winds to generate electricity. The resident had never heard of wind energy, but he was one of the first to understand the benefits it could bring. Neoenergia started, six years later, to build its first three farms in the locality - Canoas, Lagoa I and Lagoa II - and is installing another strategic project for the company, the Chafariz Wind Complex. During this period, Piúga became an example of the advantages of investments like these: with three turbines on his land, he saw income increase, family members returned to their homeland attracted by job opportunities and now he has the financial means to help a granddaughter to study dentistry.
“We focus on our businesses to generate value and contribute to improving the quality of life in all areas where we operate by encouraging sustainable development. With the expansion of our renewable energy portfolio, we were able to generate environmental, social and economic benefits, such as the creation of jobs and income, the strengthening of local production chains and the promotion of cultural activities and education", states the superintendent of Neoenergia Renewable Business Development, Thaisa Almeida.
A survey conducted by the consultancy GO Associados and published by the Brazilian Wind Energy Association (ABEEólica) showed that, among the municipalities that received investments in the segment, the Human Development Index (HDI) and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 20.19 % and 21.15%, respectively. Considering the Education HDI, the indicator gets to improve 44.69% in the places where there are wind projects. The same study points out that there is a reduction in inequality - measured by the Gini Index - and the total water service index grows by 6.98%.
The growth of wind energy also has the multiplier effects, with the generation of jobs, income and tax collection. The lands where the wind turbines are installed are leased, which means that the owners have a guaranteed income during the entire period of operation of the parks, in addition to the original economic practices of each area. As wind farms use an area of less than 10% of the land, the owner continues to respect its history with the maintenance of agricultural and livestock activities as at the origin. In addition, land regularization is carried out, which benefits residents with property titles.
The Piúga ranch is located in São José do Sabugi, one of the municipalities around Santa Luzia that received wind farms. “Before wind farms we had suffering, we planted cotton to sell almost for free. It worked and will get better and better. I already bought a car and then I managed to exchange it, I am going to help my granddaughter who is going to college and some children and grandchildren who lived far away have returned", he celebrates.
One of the family members who fulfilled the dream of returning to Paraíba was Francisco Fábio Cardoso Santos, 31, his grandson, who works as a guard in the Neoenergia parks. He has lived in São Paulo since 2009, where he went in search of a job. “I went because I didn't have a job here, but I always wanted to get back to my place, where I was born and I always want to be. In 2012, my mother said that the opportunities would start, I left everything there and came. I worked on the construction of the park, then I took the guard course and I am very satisfied, I am very grateful", he says. Today, he lives on the property of his grandfather, who moved to Santa Luzia, but he frequently visits the ranch to take care of animals and plants.
Potiguar (a person born in the state of Rio Grande do Norte) businessman Tayrones Galvão, 30, took advantage of the economic growth opportunities offered by the segment in Rio Grande do Norte, the state with the largest installed capacity for this energy source in the country and where the Calangos Wind Complex is located, the largest wind complex in operation of Neoenergia. When the construction of the parks started in 2014, he worked helping his parents at the family restaurant and joinery in the municipality of Lagoa Nova. The mother saw her revenue increase when she started providing food for the project's employees.
Working in the construction sites, Tayrones managed to expand the business after realizing the demand for several types of products, such as signposts for the sites. Now, he also owns a protective equipment distributor, an inn and is opening with the partner the first retail store in the city of João Câmara (RN). “We left the level of having no vision of growth to come up with a plan for the next ten years. We can be born here and set up a national company, as big as any other. It was wind energy that brought this opportunity to me, with local development and opportunities that we would never have had without these investments. People are beginning to want to participate in this growth because they have seen the situation in the city improve. I am a great supporter of wind power", he says.
In Rio Grande do Norte, 11 of the 17 projects in operation of Neoenergia are located - Calangos complex, Rio do Fogo, Arizona I and Mel II parks. The other assets are located in the states of Paraíba and Bahia - Canoas, Lagoa I, II, Caetité I, II and III. In all, the company has an installed capacity of 516 MW in wind energy. By 2023, the group's power will triple, reaching 1.6 GW, with the completion of the new Chafariz (PB) and Oitis (PI and BA) complexes. The investments are in line with the company's commitments to providing clean energy and combating climate change, in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Neoenergia is also contributing to the generation of jobs and income and generating social and environmental benefits for the regions of the parks under construction. In Oitis, about 40% of the workforce employed is local since the beginning of the works, between November 2020 and January 2021. Until the delivery of the new project, the expectation is to create 1,500 jobs. In Chafariz, 1,400 jobs were created in the region. In Santa Luzia and in the surroundings, where the Chafariz Complex is being implemented, the company has already promoted several actions, such as the donation of solar panels to health and education units, the promotion of professional courses, the renovation of schools and the support to artisans of the Associação Comunitária das Louceiras Negras da Serra do Talhado, an entity formed by women from the Comunidade Quilombola da Serra do Talhado Urbana.