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Vale hits solar generation capacity at Sol do Cerrado energy complex in Brazil

Vale says it has reached maximum capacity at the Sol do Cerrado solar energy complex in Brazil, one of the largest solar parks in Latin America.

The project is set to supply 16% of all the energy consumed by Vale in its operations in Brazil, in line with the company’s strategy of achieving zero CO2 emissions by 205o.

Vale reached the full installed capacity of the Sol do Cerrado project, in Jaíba, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on Tuesday (July 18). On this date, the company received authorisation from the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL) for the commercial operation of the last photovoltaic plant of the project, of a total of 17. The project has an installed capacity of 766 MW (peak), equivalent to the consumption of a city of 800,000 inhabitants, Vale says. Operating at full capacity, the solar complex will supply 16% of all the energy consumed by Vale in Brazil.

Sol do Cerrado, whose investments totalled around R$3 billion ($590m), is an important step in helping Vale achieve its climate goals of reducing net carbon emissions (Scope 1 and 2) by 33% by 2030 and zeroing them by 2050. The energy generated by the solar park will reduce Vale’s emissions by 134,000 t/y CO2e, which represents the emission of approximately 100,000 compact cars, according to the company. Vale also expects to reach 100% of renewable energy consumption in Brazil by 2025, and globally by 2030.

Vale began operations at Sol do Cerrado in November last year, with the start-up of four of the 17 photovoltaic plants or sub-parks of the complex, and expanded the operation over the following months, according to authorisations from the regulatory body.

The project has 1.4 million solar panels with an automatic tracking system of the sun’s movement during the day, for greater use of the sun’s rays in energy generation. Some 10.2 million metres of cables are used to conduct the energy.

Currently, Sol do Cerrado has about 100 permanent workers of various qualifications, such as electrotechnicians, electricians and general service assistants. During the implementation of the solar park, between 2021 and 2023, about 3,000 jobs were generated at the peak of activities, with almost 50% deemed to be local labour and 16% of the total jobs taken up by women.

Ludmila Nascimento, Vale’s Energy and Decarbonisation Director, said: “Over the past few months, we have been working hard on the ramp-up of the project, which went exactly as planned. We have successfully connected the 17 plants of the solar park and should already reach peak production next summer. Sol do Cerrado is a complex that brings together local development and renewable energy, contributing to our goal of being leaders in sustainable mining.”

The project also includes a 15-km-long transmission line, with a voltage of 230,000 volts, connecting the Sol do Cerrado and Jaíba collector substations, from where the energy is discharged to the National Interconnected System.