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Winds of change? Socio-environmental dynamics of wind power expansion in northeastern Brazil

Authors: Michael Klingler*, Institute for Sustainable Economic Development, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Johannes Schmidt, Institute for Sustainable Economic Development, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Olga Turkovska, Institute for Sustainable Economic Development, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
Topics: Energy, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: energy geographies, wind power, brazil
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


We argue that limited land availability in densely populated, high energy using regions in the Global North can lead to trade streams in renewable, synthetic fuels, based on wind power or photovoltaics. This may further increase the land-pressure due to renewable energy infrastructure in the Global South. Brazil already significantly expanded wind-power generation in the past. Moreover, according to Brazil’s Plan for Energy Expansion new added wind-power generation should increase by 25.3 GW until 2029 compared to 14.2 GW installed in 2018. Wind power will become the third most important source of electricity generation after hydropower and biomass, with the highest growth rates in Northeast Brazil, where 84% of the national wind power potential is concentrated.

Based on spatially explicit analysis of land cover and land-use change, and discourse analysis on wind power expansion in Brazil, we discuss emerging socio-environmental dynamics in the renewable energy transitions. Preliminary pixel-based results for the state of Ceará show that a significant share of existing wind parks was deployed on land mainly covered with natural vegetation or dunes, increasing the risks for the ecologically highly vulnerable Caatinga biome, which has the lowest quota of protected areas of all Brazilian biomes. Due to complex landownership conditions, we also highlight that the expansion of wind infrastructure in Northeast Brazil reconfigures socio-materialities of spaces and modes of territorialization. Based on case-study specific media discourse analyses, our aim is to further deepen the discussion on (un-)visible disputes over access to and control over land for wind power.

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