This was overwhelmingly due to major developments in Mexico, but if all of 2011's projects come to fruition the year will top 1.1GW in new capacity. Further south, the Andean countries especially are seen as having huge potential for wind energy.
Mexico added 316MW to bring its total installed capacity to 717MW, according to the Mexican wind power association, Amdee. In keeping with a longstanding trend, the vast majority of this was in the southern state of Oaxaca. Around 807MW may be added this year.
The bulk of 2010 capacity was built under so-called self-supply status, whereby a heavy electricity user builds production facilities with a developer and the power is sent to the user through the grid owned by federal electricity commission CFE. Self supply was responsible for the largest project to come online last year: 213MW completed by Spanish wind developer and turbine manufacturer Acciona for cement giant Cemex.
Last year was also notable for a new entrant into Mexico's wind power arena: the state government of Baja California, which borders the US in the north-west. It funded a 10MW project developed by engineering group Cisa and turbine manufacturers Gamesa. The two companies had partnered previously in Oaxaca.
CFE is expected to be the main player in wind development in 2011, working with three Spanish partners: Acciona, wind developer Iberdrola and construction firm Grupo ACS. Tamaulipas, a state that borders the US along the Gulf of Mexico, will host 161MW that is being developed by Mexican firm Grupo Soluciones en Energias Renovables. Baking giant Bimbo recently announced plans for a 90MW, $200 million wind farm in Oaxaca town Union Hidalgo, working with Spanish developer Renovalia Energy.
Argentina is set to add 150MW in 2011, part of projects promised under a licensing round that committed participants to 754MW of additional installed capacity by 2013. In 2010, Argentina added 25MW to the public network. This comparatively modest amount still represents a 45% increase in installed capacity, raising the country's total to 55MW. A further 4.5MW was developed but has not yet been connected to the grid.
All of 2010's new capacity came from one project: the $235 million Arauco wind farm in the northern province of La Rioja, built by state energy company Enarsa.
The government has plans for two bidding rounds for four projects via a programme known as Genren I. The total capacity due to be installed under Genren I is 754MW, including 580MW in the northern province of Chubut, 99MW in Buenos Aires province and 75MW in Santa Cruz province, in the south.
During 2011, the government is also set to launch follow-up programme Genren II. It has already begun prospecting in La Rioja, Mendoza, Neuquen and La Pampa. Private interest in the projects has been bolstered by a state commitment to pay for power in US dollars under 15-year contracts. Announcing the results of the Genren tender in July, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said moving into renewables and focusing on wind would create more than 7,000 jobs.
Sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay added 20MW during 2010, bringing total capacity to around 40MW, according to the energy ministry's National Directorate for Energy and Nuclear Technology Energy, DNETN. The country plans to ramp this up by 150MW via a bidding round for 20-year projects of between 30MW and 50MW that will be adjudicated during the first quarter. The DNETN reported a total of 22 bids from 15 firms or consortia in July 2010. The directorate forecasts there will be 220MW of state-owned wind capacity by 2015 and 374MW more in private hands.
Oil-rich Venezuela has only marginal capacity installed and that did not change last year, according to energy ministry data. But state-run power company Petroleos de Venezuela plans to bring 24MW online during 2011 as part of a plan for an impressive 1.7GW over the next five years. In 2010, the country committed to spending $1 billion on improving electricity production and distribution.
Chile, which currently has 168MW of wind capacity installed, plans to have 40GW by 2025, according to plans published by the energy ministry's Renewable Energy Centre. The first step towards this goal is a bidding round, due to close in July, for nearly 2,700 hectares in Taltal and just over 3,000 hectares in Sierra Gorda.
Both municipalities are in Antofagasta, a northern region that has been identified as having substantial wind resources.