Latin America ramps up wind capacity with foreign help

Last year, Latin America added over 700 megawatts of wind capacity, led by Brazil, which added 326 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity. In Mexico, 316 MW came online, including the 250-megawatt Eurus wind farm in the south of the country.
Latin America ramps up wind capacity with foreign help

The Latin American Wind Energy Association (LAWEA) reports that construction over the present decade is expected to significantly ramp up in Brazil, with 4,000 MW of new capacity coming on line just by 2013. Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Dominican Republic are also expected to add a significant sum by the end of this decade.

Peru is one country in Latin America which sees great potential for diversifying its energy mix through wind power. Luis Haro, Director-general of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), says that 63% of the country's electricity demand is currently met by hydropower, 31% by gas, 3% by coal and the remaining 2% from fuel oil, while the Peruvian government is committed to strongly reducing the fossil fuel share, also considering that additional capacity will be needed to meet the growing demand and to increase electricity penetration in rural areas.

Haro says that the potential of renewable resources in Peru is huge. His ministry estimates that Peru’s wind resource is equivalent to over 22,000 MW. Two areas in the departments of Ica and Piura are especially noteworthy, with 9,144 MW and 7,554 MW of potential capacity each.

Recently, Peru gave the green light for the construction of three new wind farms with a total capacity of 140 MW. Two will be installed in the northern area of Talara-Guadalupe, while the third will be built in the southern region of Marcona. These concessions had been offered in a bidding tender that was held at the beginning of the year. The plants will be put into service by 2012.

200 MW in additional wind farms by 2015

On the other side of the continent, Ramon Mendez, Director of Energy at Uruguay’s Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining said his country could generate 25-28% of its power from wind turbines and biomass in 2015, nearly twice its 15% target.

Last December, the government invited developers to submit proposals for a 150 MW wind power auction, while the state power company, Usinas y Transmisiones del Estado, revealed plans to develop 200 MW of wind farms, which could be operational by 2015.

One month later, three developers, including Spain's Abengoa, were awarded contracts to sell wind power at rates of US$81.15-86.26.MWh, 40% below the rate charged at fuel oil and diesel oil thermal plants, according to Mendez.

Mendez said the country must be careful not to install too much capacity and burden the power grid with an excess of wind energy. On a blustery summer night, for example, he said the planned 500 MW of wind farms may, at peak moments, produce as much as 60% of the country's electricity. When demand is low this surging supply may be a problem. "Wind generation is not controllable, you get what you're given" he said.

Outside help

Latin America is clearly committed to ramping up renewable energy use, above all to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, but they do need help. Lacking proprietary wind technologies and companies, countries such as Peru and Uruguay are looking to more established wind markets for help in developing their own wind energy industries.

A high level delegation from Uruguay is exploring the possibility of forging cooperation with India in the wind power sector for example. Led by Uruguayan Vice President, Danilo Astori, the delegation recently visited RRB Energy Ltd’s plant in Chennai (formally Madras), India.

'We are witnessing an increased demand for wind power in our country. However, it cannot be met without the help and co-operation of a sound technical partner. There is vast scope for co-operation between Uruguay and India in the field of renewable energy' Uruguay's Minister for Industry, Energy and Mines Roberto Kriemerman told reporters.

"We need to improve our trade relations taking advantage of the preferences between India and Mercosur" Astori said.

Meanwhile, another established wind market, Spain, is beginning to extend its reach into Latin America drawing on the close trade links Spain already has with many countries in the region. Leading companies such as Gamesa and Abengoa are already active on the continent. Iberdrola Renovables for example has already installed 106 MW of wind capacity in Mexico and 49 MW in Brazil.

Nonetheless, with Spain’s domestic wind market reaching stagnation, recording the slowest growth since 2003 in absolute terms last year, certain players are calling for more ambition from the sector in terms of expanding into Latin America.

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