This is expected to be a big year for wind in Mexico, with the Mexican Wind Energy Association (AMDEE) predicting 1GW to be installed in the first few months alone.
There is 911MW under construction in Oaxaca and another 1.4GW with transmission capacity committed. Baja California, a state with electricity systems more closely linked to the US, can boast nearly 5GW of wind-power plans in gestation, all but 16MW for export. The country is on course for 2.5GW installed capacity by 2014, despite currently having just under 519MW installed and no growth recorded in 2011.
In November, Mexico's biggest wind farm took a step forward when the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) approved a $72-million loan. The project is being developed by Marena Renovables Capital, which is controlled by the Macquarie Mexican Infrastructure Fund. There are also projects on the drawing board in Nuevo Leon, Chiapas and Jalisco, but investment there is not yet significant.
"We are eventually going to see major investments in those regions because turbine development is reducing the cost of equipment," says AMDEE president Leopoldo Rodriguez.
Argentina finished 2011 with 108MW installed, compared with 30MW at the end of 2010.
The majority of this increase can be attributed to one wind farm. The 77MW first phase of the Parque Eolico Rawson in Chubut province in the southern region of Patagonia went online in the last quarter.
The project is the first to be delivered under the Genren renewable-energy auction system, which commissioned 754MW of capacity out of nearly 1.3GW of wind projects offered in June 2010. The second round of Genren was launched in May, intending to assign 17 wind contracts and 17 contracts for other renewable sources. This round, which was closed to bidders from the first round, generated just over 1.2GW of wind offers, but the government halted the wind process midway because so many projects commissioned in the first round had stalled. Plans for more than 670MW of wind are on ice due to the nation's financial problems.
Chile's total installed wind saw very little growth in 2011, with a mere 20MW added. However, the year ahead looks more promising. In January, Chile's homeland assets ministry assigned 2,600 hectares of land in Taltal in the northern region of Antofagasta to Enel Green Power. Enel Green will build a 99MW wind farm there. This was part of an auction of state land for wind projects, although participants only bid on one of the two tracts of land offered.
Industry commentators claim that developers are put off by the high price of wind power in Chile, which is around $100/MWh. Policy uncertainty has had an impact, as the industry awaits the passing of legislation to boost the amount of renewable energy required from the nation's distributors from the current 5%, rising in stages to 20% by 2020. This is currently going through the Chilean parliament.
Uruguay only added 4MW in 2011, taking total capacity to 44MW. However, it completed two auctions that could turn the nation into a wind-power giant, at least in percentage terms. The state utility Usinas y Trasmisiones Electricas (UTE) commissioned a total of 300MW of wind, achieving prices as low as $63/MWh in the second round. Another tender is expected in 2012, totalling 1GW of projects to be built by 2015.
Honduras & Caribbean
In Honduras, the 102MW Cerro Hula wind farm began operating last year. A 25MW second phase of the project and another 100MW project in Choluteca are in progress.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the first large-scale wind farms to be developed in the Dominican Republic came online in October. The Los Cocos and Quilvio Cabrera projects in the southern province of Pedernales have a combined capacity of 33MW. A contract for the construction of the 52MW second stage of the wind farm has now been signed. The expansion is forecast to be complete in December.