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Brazil environment agency approves operation of 3,150-MW Santo Antonio

BRASILIA, Brazil 9/21/11 (PennWell) -- Brazil's environmental regulator has issued a license to allow operation of the 3,150-MW Santo Antonio hydroelectric project being built on the Madeira River.

Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renovaveis (Ibama) said September 14 that, after technical studies, it decided the project reservoir should be filled in three stages to ensure water quality at levels suitable for multiple use and for maintenance of fish.

Brazilian state-run power company Eletrobras Furnas, which holds 39 percent of the Consorcio Madeira Energia group that controls project owner Santo Antonio Energia, said in July that river diversion had begun as part of construction.

Ibama said reservoir filling was expected to begin immediately, four months ahead of the schedule of the project's environmental program, and should terminate upon reaching level of 70.5 meters at the end of November. After filling the 546-square-kilometer reservoir, Santo Antonio Energia is authorized to produce power.

Ibama also issued a wildlife rescue permit. It said gradual filling of the reservoir will allow rescue of stranded wildlife and their transfer to forest in the immediate area.

To offset environmental effects of the project, Santo Antonio Energia is to invest about 56 million reais (US$30.4 million), representing a half-percent of the project value, as required by law. Ibama said the federal environmental compensation committee considered the compensation a priority to define allocation of environmental mitigation resources.

Consorcio Madeira Energia also includes Odebrecht Investimentos em Infra-estrutura Ltda., 17.6 percent; Construtora Norberto Odebrecht S.A., 1 percent; Andrade Gutierrez Participacoes S/A, 12.4 percent; Cemig Geracao e Transmissao S/A, 10 percent; and Fundo de Investimentos e Participacoes Amazonia Energia (formed by banks Banif and Santander), 20 percent.

Santo Antonio, with 44 turbine-generators, is one of two big projects, with 3,750-MW Jirau, comprising the Madeira River complex. GDF Suez, a member of the Jirau developer consortium, said in August that Jirau would be expanded from 3,300 MW by increasing the number of its proposed turbine-generators to 50 from 44. The Jirau and Santo Antonio dams are being built 84 kilometers and 119 kilometers from the Bolivian border on the Madeira, an Amazon River tributary.

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