Hydropower in Amazonia
The Belo Monte Power Station, located in Brazil’s northern state of Pará, is one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the world. Its construction began in 2011 and was completed in 2019. The power station is using the energy of the Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon River.
The total installed capacity of more than 11,000 megawatts (MW) is enough to supply electricity to over 60 million people. The power station has 18 power generating units, each with a capacity of 611 MW. It is estimated that the power station will produce around 40,000 GWh of electricity per year, which will help to meet the growing demand for electricity in Brazil.
However, the construction of the Belo Monte Power Station has been highly controversial. Environmentalists and indigenous groups have raised concerns about the impact of the power station on the local ecosystem and on the livelihoods of the indigenous people in the area. The construction of the power station involved the flooding of a large area of forest and the displacement of thousands of people. Moreover, the changed water regime has impacted the ecosystem of Rio Xingu below the dam.
Despite these concerns, the Brazilian government has defended the construction of the Belo Monte Power Station as necessary to meet the country’s energy needs, to promote economic development, and to reduce Brazil’s dependence on fossil fuels and by that to help combat climate change.
The datasets provided in the satellite map comprise satellite image data from 2011, 2015 and 2017 as well as the extents of the water bodies derived from the satellite images of 2015 and 2017.
- Satellite Map:
- Deselect all layers and compare the satellite images of 2015 and 2011 only. Describe the differences. Is there a change in the water flow visible already?
- Add the satellite image of 2017. Describe the change.
- Use the satellite images and the layers of the water bodies to identify changes in the water surfaces.
- Describe the land use types you can see in the region. Is only natural land flooded by the dam?
- EO Browser:
- Open the EO Browser
- Search for the latest Sentinel-2 image of the area and use a real-colour representation to display the image
- Zoom into the image to display the area in a zoom level comparable to the Satellite Map
- Compare with the Satellite Map. Can you identify additional substantial changes?
Links and Sources
- NASA Earth Observatory: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/91083/reshaping-the-xingu-river