Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Article
  • Published:

Large-scale green grabbing for wind and solar photovoltaic development in Brazil


Large-scale wind and solar photovoltaic infrastructures are rapidly expanding in Brazil. These low-carbon technologies can exacerbate land struggles rooted in historical inequities in landownership, lack of regulation and weak governance. Here we trace how green grabbing—that is, the large-scale appropriation and control of (undesignated) public lands, both formally legal and illicit, for the development of wind and solar photovoltaic power—has developed in Brazil from 2000 to 2021. We find that global investors and owners, mainly from Europe, are involved in 78% of wind and 96% of solar photovoltaic parks, occupying 2,148 km2 and 102 km2 of land, respectively. We also show that land privatization is the prevalent land tenure regime for securing land, indicating substantial transformations of prior (undesignated) public and common lands. We conclude that green grabbing is a persistent, critical phenomenon in Brazil, requiring transparency and vigilant monitoring of land claims and tenure modifications.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Ownership of and investment in wind power assets.
Fig. 2: Ownership of and investment in solar PV assets.
Fig. 3: Green grabbing in the context of a wind power park.
Fig. 4: Land area by type of land tenure regime.
Fig. 5: Cumulative land privatizations for wind and solar PV parks.

Similar content being viewed by others

Data availability

The ownership and finance data that support the findings of this study are available from BNEF, but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under licence for the current study and so are not publicly available. All other datasets are publicly available from government institutions, but under non-sharing licences. We therefore cannot provide a repository with the original data; however, we have uploaded the processed data to Zenodo at (ref. 71). In addition, we provide the download sources in Supplementary Table 1.

Code availability

The R code used to analyse the data can be found at


  1. Anuário Estatístico de Energia Elétrica 2022 Ano Base 2021 (2022 Statistical Yearbook of Electricity—2021 Baseline Year) (MME & EPE, 2023).

  2. Schmidt, J., Cancella, R. & Pereira, A. O. An optimal mix of solar PV, wind and hydro power for a low-carbon electricity supply in Brazil. Renew. Energy 85, 137–147 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Franco, J. C. & Borras, S. M. The global climate of land politics. Globalizations 18, 1277–1297 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Yenneti, K., Day, R. & Golubchikov, O. Spatial justice and the land politics of renewables: dispossessing vulnerable communities through solar energy mega-projects. Geoforum 76, 90–99 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Brannstrom, C. et al. Is Brazilian wind power development sustainable? Insights from a review of conflicts in Ceará state. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 67, 62–71 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Avila, S. Contesting energy transitions: wind power and conflicts in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. J. Polit. Ecol. 24, 992–1012 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  7. IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (eds Shukla, P. R. et al.) (IPCC, 2019).

  8. White, B., Borras, S. M. Jr, Hall, R., Scoones, I. & Wolford, W. The new enclosures: critical perspectives on corporate land deals. J. Peasant Stud. 39, 619–647 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Edelman, M., Oya, C. & Borras, S. M. Global land grabs: historical processes, theoretical and methodological implications and current trajectories. Third World Q. 34, 1517–1531 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cotula, L. The international political economy of the global land rush: a critical appraisal of trends, scale, geography and drivers. J. Peasant Stud. 39, 649–680 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Zoomers, A. Globalisation and the foreignisation of space: seven processes driving the current global land grab. J. Peasant Stud. 37, 429–447 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. De Schutter, O. How not to think of land-grabbing: three critiques of large-scale investments in farmland. J. Peasant Stud. 38, 249–279 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Beyerlee, D. & Deininger, K. Growing resource scarcity and global farmland investment. Annu. Rev. Resour. Econ. 5, 13–34 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Carrero, G. C., Walker, R. T., Simmons, C. S. & Fearnside, P. M. Land grabbing in the Brazilian Amazon: stealing public land with government approval. Land Use Policy 120, 106133 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Klingler, M. & Mack, P. Post-frontier governance up in smoke? Free-for-all frontier imaginations encourage illegal deforestation and appropriation of public lands in the Brazilian Amazon. J. Land Use Sci. 15, 424–438 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Brito, B., Barreto, P., Brandão, A., Baima, S. & Gomes, P. H. Stimulus for land grabbing and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Environ. Res. Lett. 14, 064018 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Fairhead, J., Leach, M. & Scoones, I. Green grabbing: a new appropriation of nature? J. Peasant Stud. 39, 237–261 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Leach, M., Fairhead, J. & Fraser, J. Green grabs and biochar: revaluing African soils and farming in the new carbon economy. J. Peasant Stud. 39, 285–307 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Corson, C. & MacDonald, K. I. Enclosing the global commons: the convention on biological diversity and green grabbing. J. Peasant Stud. 39, 263–283 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Siamanta, Z. C. Wind parks in post-crisis Greece: neoliberalisation vis-à-vis green grabbing. Environ. Plan. E 2, 274–303 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Stock, R. Power for the Plantationocene: solar parks as the colonial form of an energy plantation. J. Peasant Stud. 50, 162–184 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Franco, J. C. & Borras, S. M. Grey areas in green grabbing: subtle and indirect interconnections between climate change politics and land grabs and their implications for research. Land Use Policy 84, 192–199 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Borras, S. M., Franco, J. C., Gómez, S., Kay, C. & Spoor, M. Land grabbing in Latin America and the Caribbean. J. Peasant Stud. 39, 845–872 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Torres Contreras, G. A. Who owns the land owns the wind? Land and citizenship in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. J. Agrar. Change 23, 365–384 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Torres‐Mazuera, G. Dispossession through land titling: legal loopholes and shadow procedures to urbanized forestlands in the Yucatán Peninsula. J. Agrar. Change 23, 346–364 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Peluso, N. L. & Lund, C. New frontiers of land control: introduction. J. Peasant Stud. 38, 667–681 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Dunlap, A. & Arce, M. C. ‘Murderous energy’ in Oaxaca, Mexico: wind factories, territorial struggle and social warfare. J. Peasant Stud. 49, 455–480 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Torres Contreras, G. A. Twenty-five years under the wind turbines in La Venta, Mexico: social difference, land control and agrarian change. J. Peasant Stud. 49, 865–883 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Franquesa, J. Power Struggles: Dignity, Value, and the Renewable Energy Frontier in Spain (Indiana Univ. Press, 2018).

  30. Backhouse, M. & Lehmann, R. New ‘renewable’ frontiers: contested palm oil plantations and wind energy projects in Brazil and Mexico. J. Land Use Sci. 15, 373–388 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Hershaw, E. & Sauer, S. Land and investment dynamics along Brazil’s ‘final’ frontier: the financialization of the Matopiba at a political crossroads. Land Use Policy 131, 106675 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Anseeuw, W., Lay, J., Messerli, P., Giger, M. & Taylor, M. Creating a public tool to assess and promote transparency in global land deals: the experience of the Land Matrix. J. Peasant Stud. 40, 521–530 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Reydon, B. P., Fernandes, V. B. & Telles, T. S. Land tenure in Brazil: the question of regulation and governance. Land Use Policy 42, 509–516 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Sparovek, G. et al. Who owns Brazilian lands? Land Use Policy 87, 104062 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Traldi, M. Accumulation by dispossession and green grabbing: wind farms, lease agreements, land appropriation in the Brazilian semiarid. Ambiente Soc. 24, e00522 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Imbirussú, É., de Oliveira, G. G. & Germani, G. I. in Towards Just and Sustainable Economies (eds North, P. & Cato, M. S.) 155–176 (Bristol Univ. Press, 2018).

  37. Barbosa, J., Dias, L. P., Simoes, S. G. & Seixas, J. When is the sun going to shine for the Brazilian energy sector? A story of how modelling affects solar electricity. Renew. Energy 162, 1684–1702 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Deng, Y. et al. Harmonized and open energy dataset for modeling a highly renewable Brazilian power system. Sci. Data 10, 103 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Fthenakis, V. & Kim, H. C. Land use and electricity generation: a life-cycle analysis. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 13, 1465–1474 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Matthäus, D. & Mehling, M. De-risking renewable energy investments in developing countries: a multilateral guarantee mechanism. Joule 4, 2627–2645 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Tolmasquim, M. T., de Barros Correia, T., Addas Porto, N. & Kruger, W. Electricity market design and renewable energy auctions: the case of Brazil. Energy Policy 158, 112558 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Isah, A. et al. Financing renewable energy: policy insights from Brazil and Nigeria. Energy Sustain. Soc. 13 (2023).

  43. Bazilian, M., Cuming, V. & Kenyon, T. Local-content rules for renewables projects don’t always work. Energy Strategy Rev. 32, 100569 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Werner, D. & Lazaro, L. L. B. The policy dimension of energy transition: the Brazilian case in promoting renewable energies (2000–2022). Energy Policy 175, 113480 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Turkovska, O. et al. Land-use requirements of solar and wind power. Preprint at EarthArXiv (2023).

  46. Araújo, J. C. H., Souza, W. F. D., Meireles, A. J. D. A. & Brannstrom, C. Sustainability challenges of wind power deployment in Coastal Ceará State, Brazil. Sustainability 12, 5562 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Dunlap, A. Counterinsurgency for wind energy: the Bíi Hioxo wind park in Juchitán, Mexico. J. Peasant Stud. 45, 630–652 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Stock, R. & Birkenholtz, T. The sun and the scythe: energy dispossessions and the agrarian question of labor in solar parks. J. Peasant Stud. 48, 984–1007 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Borras, S. M. et al. The value of so-called ‘failed’ large-scale land acquisitions. Land Use Policy 119, 106199 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Gorayeb, A., Brannstrom, C., de Andrade Meireles, A. J. & de Sousa Mendes, J. Wind power gone bad: critiquing wind power planning processes in northeastern Brazil. Energy Res. Soc. Sci. 40, 82–88 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Frate, C. A., Brannstrom, C., De Morais, M. V. G. & Caldeira-Pires, A. D. A. Procedural and distributive justice inform subjectivity regarding wind power: a case from Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. Energy Policy 132, 185–195 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. SDE, SDR, CDA, PGE-BA. Instrução Normativa Conjunta 01/2020 (2020).

  53. Marques, J., Barreto, A., Barrero, F. M. C. & Maia, Í. O Cárcere Dos Ventos: Destruição Das Serras Pelos Complexos Eólicos Vol. 3 (Editora Sabeh, 2021).

  54. Neri, M., Jameli, D., Bernard, E. & Melo, F. P. L. Green versus green? Adverting potential conflicts between wind power generation and biodiversity conservation in Brazil. Perspect. Ecol. Conserv. 17, 131–135 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  55. Turkovska, O. et al. Land-use impacts of Brazilian wind power expansion. Environ. Res. Lett. 16, 024010 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Bisognin Garlet, T., de Souza Savian, F., Duarte Ribeiro, J. L. & Mairesse Siluk, J. C. Unlocking Brazil’s green hydrogen potential: overcoming barriers and formulating strategies to this promising sector. Int. J. Hydrogen Energy 49, 553–570 (2024).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  57. Posit.Co. R Studio Server v.2023.23.0. (2023).

  58. Q-Gis v.3.28. (2022).

  59. Rickman, J., Larosa, F. & Ameli, N. The internal dynamics of fast-growing wind finance markets. J. Clean. Prod. 375, 134129 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. IRENA. Renewable Energy Statistics 2022 (IRENA, 2022).

  61. IRENA. IRENASTAT Online Data Query Tool (IRENA, 2023).

  62. Reydon, B. P., Fernandes, V. B. & Telles, T. S. Land governance as a precondition for decreasing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Land Use Policy 94, 104313 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Sistema de Gestão Fundiária, SIGEF (INCRA, 2022).

  64. Brazilian Native Vegetation Protection Law ‘LEI no. 12.651, de 25 de Maio de 2012 (Presidência da República do Brasil, 2012).

  65. Boletim Informativo CAR—Junho/2022 (Brazilian Forest Service) (2022).

  66. Moutinho, P. & Azevedo-Ramos, C. Untitled public forestlands threaten Amazon conservation. Nat. Commun. 14, 1152 (2023).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  67. Pacheco, A. & Meyer, C. Land tenure drives Brazil’s deforestation rates across socio-environmental contexts. Nat. Commun. 13, 5759 (2022).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  68. Global Wind Atlas (GWA 2.3) (DTU Wind Energy, ESMAP & World Bank Group, 2021).

  69. Guillet, J. Financing Offshore Wind (World Forum Offshore Wind) (2022).

  70. Camarinha-Matos, L. M., Oliveira, A. I., Ferrada, F. & Thamburaj, V. Collaborative services provision for solar power plants. IMDS 117, 946–966 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Klingler, M., Rickman, J., Amelie, N. & Schmidt, J. Large-scale green grabbing for wind and solar PV development in Brazil. Zenodo (2023).

Download references


We thank P. G. D. Huber, F. Wiesenhofer and C. Mikovits for support in data preparation. We particularly thank the entire consortium (AATR, CPT, IRPAA, 10envolvimento and GeografAR from the Federal University of Bahia) for collaboration and knowledge sharing in the initiative ‘Energias Renováveis na Bahia: Caminhos e Descaminhos’ ( between April 2021 and July 2022. J.S. and M.K. acknowledge support from the European Research Council (grant ‘reFUEL’ ERC-2017-STG 758149). N.A. acknowledges support from the European Research Council (grant ‘LINKS’ ERC-2019-STG 802891). The findings do not represent the views of the funding agencies.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



M.K. and J.S. designed the empirical analysis, performed the data analysis and wrote the paper. N.A. provided the data and discussed and revised the paper. J.R. contributed with data analysis rules and revised the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael Klingler.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Sustainability thanks Patrick Bigger and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–5, Figs. 1–9 and Sections 2.1 and 2.2.

Reporting Summary

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Klingler, M., Ameli, N., Rickman, J. et al. Large-scale green grabbing for wind and solar photovoltaic development in Brazil. Nat Sustain (2024).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing