The developers of the 3.15 GW Santo Antônio hydropower project in Brazil have awarded Alstom Hydro a EUR500 million contract to supply equipment for the plant.

Construtora Norberto Odebrecht, the EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) contractor and consortium leader for the plant, has contracted Alstom to supply electro-mechanical and hydro-mechanical equipment for Santo Antônio, which is being built on the Madeira River in northwest Brazil. It is scheduled to start commercial operation in 2012 and will make a major contribution to Brazil’s power system.

Santo Antônio will consist of 44 bulb type generating units. Alstom will supply 19 bulb turbines and 22 generators, as well as half of the projects hydro-mechanical and lifting equipment.

Bulb units are especially suitable for low head and run-of-river hydropower schemes such as Santo Antônio. These units are fully submerged in the water and thus able to handle significant variations in water discharge, as is the case for the Amazon region.

The concession to develop Santo Antônio was awarded to the Madeira consortium – led by Odebrecht and Brazilian power firm Furnas – in December 2007. Power from the new plant will be split between the regulated market (70 per cent) and direct clients (30 per cent).

“We are honored to participate in the Santo Antônio project, one of Brazil’s most important infrastructure works,” said Philippe Joubert, President of Alstom Power Systems. He added: “Hydropower is the world’s most important source of renewable energy, representing over 16 per cent of global electricity production today. With growing need for energy all over the world and increased demand in developing regions like Latin America, hydro can play an important role in energy production in particular as an independent energy source which is locally available.”

The size and potential impact of the plant has resulted in strong opposition from environmental groups and people that will be affected by the project. The project will be constructed over a 43 month period and will require an investment of R$9.5 billion.

Campaign groups fear that Santo Antônio and Jirau – a 3.3 GW project also under development on the Madeira River – will threaten the biodiversity of the Amazon’s principal tributary.