The new Arco Norte Electrical Interconnection Study assesses the potential for electrical interconnection of power systems in the Arco Norte region of South America. The Arco Norte region consists of the countries of Guyana, Suriname, Brazil (the northern states of Amapá and Roraima) and French Guiana. The electrical interconnection of the Arco Norte region would improve the regional electricity system, allowing electricity trading among these countries. This would allow for an optimal power generation expansion plan, under which the region could use the most efficient sources of electricity, minimizing costs and environmental and social impacts. Regional electricity trading would also help guarantee security of supply.
The Arco Norte countries have varying levels of protection for indigenous lands and environmentally protected areas. In Suriname, the Government does not officially recognize indigenous lands. On the other hand, in Brazil’s integral protection conservation units (unidades de conservação de proteção integral), natural resources may only be used indirectly, such as for scientific research or ecological tourism. As a result, the process for developing new hydropower plants and other electricity infrastructure in protected areas varies widely by project. For these reasons, the environmental and social impact of new infrastructure (including both generation and transmission assets) is a critical issue for regional electricity interconnection. We considered these potential impacts when comparing possible corridors for interconnection of the region’s power systems. We will analyze mitigation measures in the next phase of the study.
One significant advantage of regional interconnection is that it would allow for trade among French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and the national Brazilian grid. The Brazilian state of Amapá recently joined the Brazilian Interconnected System (SIN) and the state of Roraima is expected to join the system in the near future. Once the states of Roraima and Amapá are connected to the SIN, interconnection in the Arco Norte would allow for energy exports from French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname to the rest of Brazil.
The potential for exports could encourage the development of large clean energy sources (mainly hydropower) in these three countries, given the hydrological complement to the Brazilian electricity system, as rivers in the northern hemisphere have high flows at times when flows in southern Brazil are low, and vice versa. A regional plan for optimal generation expansion could allow for increased use of local energy sources (such as hydropower and biomass), reducing generation costs and dependence on imported fuels while minimizing the environmental and social impacts of new power plants.
Moreover, the development of an interconnected power system could allow for the extension of existing transmission networks into areas that are not currently served, thus eventually expanding electricity access in the Arco Norte region. The Arco Norte Electrical Interconnection Study is divided in two components: Component I – Baseline Study & Component II – Pre-Feasibility Study. This report, which includes Component I provides a baseline study that describes and evaluates options for the interconnection of the Arco Norte region. Different interconnection alternatives were assessed in terms of transmission capacity and route, taking into account characteristics of the Arco Norte region, the historical and future development of the Arco Norte countries, power supply options, and potential energy exports to Brazil. We analyzed the alternatives from an economic, technical, and socio-environmental point of view, and selected the best ones to analyze in greater depth during the next phase of the study: Component II – the Pre-Feasibility Study.
Several previous studies have addressed the feasibility of hydropower plants in the region. This study is a necessary complement to that work, since an interconnected system should also be seen as a prerequisite to transforming relatively large potential hydropower projects, which are too big for local markets, into feasible projects with a regional scope. Although many previous studies have addressed the high potential of local energy sources, only one study addressed the feasibility of interconnection. The previous study looked at a link between the power systems of Suriname and French Guiana (a 30 MW link between Menckendam in Suriname and Margot in French Guiana). Therefore, this is the first study to investigate an interconnected grid across the entire Arco Norte region.