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Episode 7 – Omexom Green Story: Ilumina Pantanal

Brazil / Climate / Energy Transition / Environment / Omexom Green Story / Power / Solar
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Today, our Green Story takes us to the Brazilian Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland and home to a UNESCO World Heritage site. Within Brazil, the Pantanal represents about 230,000 square kilometers divided between the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul and also extends into Bolivia and Paraguay.

Ilumina Pantanal in video

The Pantanal is extremely important for the conservation of biological diversity — according to the UNESCO, the Pantanal Conservation Area alone, which only represents 1.3 per cent of the total Pantanal region, comprises around 80 species of mammals, 650 species of birds, 50 of reptiles and 300 of fish.

Roughly 200,000 people live in the Brazilian Pantanal region, with little to no access to electricity. Diesel generators are the norm for the households that do have access to power, causing not only noise and air pollution, but also long and strenuous trips to resupply on fuel in town; for some communities this means a full day spent on the road or boat.

 

“Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, but few of us know in practice what that means. We are talking about families who live seven or eight days away from any urban centre.”

Eduardo Matta

Business Manager, Omexom in Brazil

Ilumina Pantanal: Improving the lives of 2000 families

Bringing clean and renewable energy to families living isolated, promoting socioeconomic development, and quality of life, all while preserving the environment: These are the objectives of “Ilumina Pantanal”.

Omexom in Brazil is in charge of the development of engineering solutions, supplies, logistics and training  for this project, which is led by Grupo Energisa, in partnership with the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), and the government of Mato Grosso do Sul.

“From a very early age, we learn that Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, but few of us know in practice what that means,” says Eduardo Matta, Business Manager Omexom in Brazil.

“We are talking about families who live seven or eight days away from any urban center, who often do not know what is happening in the country, who do not have access to education and health care, and who make a huge effort to preserve food and survive.”

An autonomous solution resilient to intermittency

This year, thanks to the Ilumina Pantanal Project, more than two thousand families who are dispersed over an area of ​​approximately 93,000 square kilometers – roughly the size of Portugal – will have access to clean energy through individual photovoltaic solar generation systems.

Each of these standalone solar PV systems developed by Omexom are composed of four photovoltaic modules, as well as control and conversion equipment. Operating without needing connection to the distribution networks, as autonomous microgrids, they each have the capacity to meet the energy needs of an entire family.

The Pantanal has an average of 179 sunny days a year and receives about 5.1 kWh/m2 of sunshine per day, but some months, such as February, have little sunshine due to cloud cover.

Omexom’s solar kits therefore come with a battery pack guaranteeing autonomy of up to two days in periods of cloudy or rainy skies.

The Omexom team on site

“We transform people’s lives with clean energy, so it really is a situation that leaves us very proud to be participating in.”

Flavio Gomide

Business Unit Manager, Omexom in Brazil

Protecting fragile ecosystems

Ilumina Pantanal is part of the Luz para Todos (Light for all) program, through which 16 million Brazilians have received access to Energy between 2003 and 2018. The program, part of the Brazilian federal government’s Universal Program for Access and Use of Electric Energy was subsequently prolonged to 2022.

However, most of the projects executed under the umbrella of the program involved extending city grids. This option was neither practical, economically feasible, nor ecologically sensible for a scarcely populated, environmentally sensitive region such as the Pantanal.

The individual solar kits have the advantage of not impacting the environment in the way large infrastructures would. They can be removed and moved at any time, also important because, since Pantanal is a wetland; the terrain is subject to change.

Solar energy is an efficient and sustainable solution because it uses an alternative source of energy, considered fundamental for the country’s energy security, especially in periods of water scarcity; most of Brazil’s energy comes from hydro energy.

A challenging project with social, environmental, and economic benefits

Providing life-changing access to clean and renewable energy to roughly 10 000 individuals living in this remote and isolated area of Mato Grosso do Sul, the project is both challenging and rewarding; mato grosso is Portuguese for thick bush. The Pantanal area is difficult to access and flooded part of the year.

Quads, boats, and off-road vehicles are the only way to access some of the project locations, testifying to the importance of providing an independent, robust, and reliable off-grid solution.

“The Pantanal project really brings together several factors that make the project very fantastic. We are taking renewable energy, green energy, to communities in need that didn’t have access to energy until now, and we provide a solution,” so Flavio Gomide, Business Unit Manager Omexom in Brazil.

“We transform people’s lives with clean energy, so it really is a situation that leaves us very proud to be participating in.”

In addition to using their expertise to provide access to clean energy, Omexom in Brazil has partnered up with the local association Instituto Homem Pantaneiro to develop complementary strategies to use solar power for the creation of irrigated community gardens, which would guarantee food production throughout the year.

A pilot project with 40 families is already underway, as well as fundraising for its expansion, carried out in partnership with Grupo Energisa and other partners.

In addition to using their expertise to provide access to clean energy, Omexom in Brazil has partnered up with the local association Instituto Homem Pantaneiro to develop complementary strategies to use solar power for the creation of irrigated community gardens, which would guarantee food production throughout the year.

A pilot project with 40 families is already underway, as well as fundraising for its expansion, carried out in partnership with Grupo Energisa and other partners.

Pantanal, an innovative project with great positive social impact does not go unnoticed: It was crowned International Solar and/or Storage Project of the Year at the Solar & Storage Live Awards 2021, held in Birmingham, United Kingdom.