On July 25, 2014, the Brazilian National Environmental Council (CONAMA) enacted Resolution No. 462, regulating specific proceedings for the environmental permitting of land wind-power plants. In summary, the new resolution provides for different permitting procedures according to the environmental impact level of projects, which may comprise an individual wind turbine, wind farms (a group of wind turbines) or wind complexes (a group of wind farms).

Therefore, environmental agencies conducting permitting proceedings shall classify projects according to their potential impacts. Power plants deemed low-impacting may be licensed through a simplified procedure, in which an Installation Permit can be issued directly, regardless of previous Preliminary Permits. On the other hand, projects not classified as low-impacting shall require a more detailed permitting procedure, in which an Environmental Impact Assessment and Environment Impact Report (EIA/RIMA) are mandatory.

Pursuant to Resolution No. 462, projects can only be classified as low-impacting when they do not fall within certain specific circumstances listed by CONAMA, such as being located in environmentally sensitive areas (e.g. dunes, coastal areas, bird migration routes). The impact classification must also consider the size of projects, in accordance with criteria established by the environmental agency in charge of the permitting proceedings.

Another relevant provision is the possibility of licensing wind complexes as a whole. In the preliminary permitting stage, there may be a singular procedure resulting in a singular Preliminary Permit covering the whole wind complex, as long as there is an entity responsible for the complex. As for the subsequent permitting stages, although a single permitting procedure may cover the whole wind complex, Installation and Operation Permits shall be issued separately for each wind-power bid winner.

The new resolution is extremely important to attract investments to the Brazilian wind-energy sector, fostering a greater participation of clean energy sources in the country's power-generation portfolio. It is expected that CONAMA should also regulate the environmental permitting of solar-power plants and offshore wind-power plants.

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This article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein.