SANTA LUZIA, Brazil – Far from the image of a violent, insecure Brazil, Luis Cardoso, known in the area as “Piuga,” greets with a smile whatever stranger approaches his home and will always offer the person a sunshade and chair on the terrace.
The 73-year-old farmer, who lives in Santa Luzia, a city in the poor northeastern state of Paraiba, tells anyone interested that he quit growing cotton to sell wind.
Piuga grew cotton, corn and beans in a state ravaged by intense droughts that punished and impeded agricultural production, but it turned out he had an ace up his sleeve – the wind.
Strong, constant winds in northeast Brazil favor the development of wind-power projects, and major industries are attracted by the source of energy generation that exists there.
Iberdrola, for example, through its Brazilian affiliate Neoenergia, decided to build a wind farm in Paraiba state and became interested in the lands worked by Piuga.
The farmer tells how in the year 2010 some “strangers” showed up at his house and said they wanted to buy wind, and that they were interested in placing three wind turbines on his land as part of the Santa Luzia energy complex.
As soon as he heard the proposal, Piuga “gave his word” and closed the deal – he was going to lease his property to the power company.
“I never heard that you can sell wind,” Piuga said. “I’m still amazed.”
For the construction of the energy complex made up of the three wind farms that are currently functioning in the area, Neoenergia leased lands from 23 families, one of them being Piuga’s.
“My wife said we were going to lose the little we had but I had already given my word, so I couldn’t back out,” the farmer said. “Nobody wanted these lands, they were useless, but now there’s wind and I can lease them out.”
In 2020, the part of the power plant surrounding Piuga’s property will be expanded with 15 more wind farms, so that the alternative energy complex will then be made up of 18 wind farms and will be the largest in Latin America.
Some 14 percent of the energy generated in Brazil, according to a Brazilian Wind Energy Association (AbeEolica) report, comes from wind.
In the northeast region, wind energy represents 70 percent of the power supply, and is the reason why the area is becoming more attractive for investment.