We’ve built the Apiacás hydroelectric system in the Amazon jungle. We are in the municipality of Alta Floresta, in Mato Grosso. An area with high biodiversity that hosts about half the animal and plant species on Earth. A priceless heritage that Enel Green Power protects every day
Energy has arrived, as intense as the waters of the Salto Apiacás waterfalls. Enel Green Power’s plant is a well-structured hydroelectric system that unfolds along the banks of the Rio dos Apiacás, with three hydroelectric plants built by listening to the needs of the local population, with the aim of transforming normal activities into sustainable actions. Just think – the worksite was powered by an off-grid photovoltaic system, which brought energy to machines and offices for the duration of the works and continues to function today.
The only thing more green than the rainforests that host the Apiacás hydroelectric park is the method. It’s the approach that we’ve adopted to preserve and value the variety and charm of a part of the largest “green lung” in the world.
“Either you do something well, or you don’t do it at all”
In the words of the unforgettable Ayrton Senna: “Either you do something well, or you don’t do it at all”. An idea that guided us during our work to bring clean energy to Mato Grosso and simultaneously protect the natural habitat. Because places like Apiacás demand the highest respect. “Every day, we met and spoke with the local population to discover their wishes, understand the needs of the territory and the improvements to be made.”
Even before opening the worksites, we visited communities and villages in the region to open up a dialogue with the inhabitants of this corner of the Amazon, because every decision must create value for all.
In our 26 months in close contact with the local population, we learned a lot. And we tried to return the favour. With the involvement of local communities and the sharing of ideas, we created a participatory planning model. Our dialogue was also transformed into a real training course, leading to educational materials to spread information on the project, on local plants and animals, and on how to protect the environment.
In the construction of the three run-of-river plants, we’ve taken measures and used technologies that have reduced our environmental impact and enacted development initiatives for the local community: projects for the protection of biodiversity, reforestation programmes, initiatives for infrastructure, awareness campaigns and training courses.
By the Numbers
The figures help us to show how veterinarians and biologists have worked to preserve the flora and fauna. They have protected and taken in more than 1,000 specimens of 141 animal species. Before the start of any worksite, they monitor the area to ensure the safety of animals and people.
“We built a small veterinary hospital to accommodate the animals that come to the construction site and a relief area where they can stay before they are accompanied back to the forest.”
Something very similar happened with the river: biologists recovered the fish – more than 100,000 specimens of 102 species – to relocate them to a safe place. There have been cases in which one person wasn’t able to transport the fish alone because of its size.
Observation and study of the local wildlife have allowed us to identify and catalogue: 334 species of birds, 87 species of reptiles and amphibians, 76 species of mammals, 64 species of fish. Not to mention the local flora: more than 63,000 specimens of epiphytic plants have been relocated to safety. Better known as air plants, they live on other plants – like moss and ferns – typical of tropical and subtropical forests.
Atenção! There are foxes in the woods
It lives in the forests and prairies of South America, has a grey-brown coat and is mostly active at night. Above all, it can cross the streets of the Apiacás park at any moment.
“Il cachorro do mato, or wood fox, is an animal that is often involved in accidents with cars driving on the red roads of Mato Grosso.”
The entire Apiacás site is equipped with specific signage for drivers. The project imposes controlled speeds and teaches all workers to drive safely. Employees have been sensitised to the protection of local wildlife and work to relocate animals to safe places, far from vehicles. The involvement of the team is the key to success.
The future is rosy, or… green!
To look at what will be in the future, let’s start from our last evaluation. If we consider 2016 alone, the Apiacás complex reused about 14 tonnes of wood used in construction; 50 types of metal and other scraps from construction sites were recycled; 21 tonnes of oil are now in the recovery phase.
More than 1,000 seeds of 95 different plant species have been preserved and donated to a nursery, where they can grow and are prepared for reforestation. Enel Green Power is contributing to the local efficiency process in seed production.
“The protection of Apiacás flora has given an important contribution to research in Brazil: more than 500 species have been identified and inserted into university scientific collections for the use of researchers. ”
The work continues: we are implementing wildlife monitoring through a system of cameras to detect the large mammals of the forest. There are endangered and at risk species, as well as others in decline. By observing them, we will be able to help them.
It’s impossible to stay the same after being here. We arrived in Mato Grosso knowing that we’d have to dedicate our best to preserving the environment. But that was just the beginning. The future of the forest and the protection of its species continues to depend greatly on us.