The company operating the Santo Antonio dam in the Brazilian Amazon has announced plans to increase its power-generating capacity by 417.6 MW, a project that will involve flooding an additional 71 sq. kilometers (27 sq. miles) of rainforest.
Once the expansion plan is completed, the dam will have nearly 3.6 GW of installed capacity, up from an initial projection of 3.1 GW, and be able to supply electricity to 44 million people, Santo Antonio Energia said in a press release.
The dam on the Madeira River - near Porto Velho, capital of the western state of Rondonia - began operating in March 2012 but will not reach full capacity until November 2016 due to the expansion project.
The water level in Santo Antonio's reservoir will increase in height by 80 centimeters (31 inches), expanding the area of flooded rainforest from an initial projection of 350 sq. kilometers (135 sq. miles) to 421 sq. kilometers.
As part of the expansion project, the company plans to install six more turbines, for a total of 50, and invest an additional 1.5 billion reais (some $680 million).
That is in addition to the project's initial 16-billion-reais (nearly $7.3-billion) budget.
The increase in the dam's reservoir level also will reduce the generating capacity of the Jirau hydroelectric power station, which is being built upriver, by an average of nearly 57 MW, according to the National Electricity Regulatory Agency, or Aneel.
Aneel has instructed Santo Antonio to transfer Jirau an average of 24.3 MW of electricity as compensation, although Santo Antonio Energia is appealing that ruling.
In a press conference Tuesday in Brasilia, Santo Antonio Energia CEO Eduardo Melo Pinto said such a transfer would adversely affect the project's economic and financial equilibrium. EFE