South American nations to realise their power potential

LATIN AMERICA: Just a few years ago, Latin America was seen as a minor one-country market with Brazil offering the only real potential. Now, though, Mexico is hot on Brazil's heels and a patchwork of wind farms are cropping up across the region.

As with all wind markets, a degree of government support has been vital. The Mexican government changed the tradition of state-owned power generation by allowing self-supply arrangements, whereby wind projects can feed into the national power grid wherever they are located to offset an equivalent amount of energy used elsewhere in the country by big industrial consumers. The market has brought on more than 300MW so far this year, with many more projects on the way.

In Brazil, the government’s Proinfa policy issued power contracts to most of the 800MW of wind projects that had come online by mid-summer. An auction system last December saw another 1.8GW of projects win contracts to start building. A second round this August should see hundreds more megawatts join the project queue.

Other nations are starting to pile up the megawatts. Chile, aiming to combat gas shortages and source 10% of its power from renewables, had put almost 170MW online by the end of last year, a big increase from the previous year. Peru, while not increasing capacity in 2010, has awarded contracts for 142MW. Uruguay, Argentina and Venezuela all have government-supported power contracts on offer.

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) predicts a total installed wind power capacity of 2.8GW in Latin America by this year, more than double the 2009 figure. The total could be 30GW by 2020 and 75GW by 2030. Electricity production from wind power in the region could increase 25 fold to 73,500GWh by 2020 and to 184,000GWh by 2030.

Beyond the obvious environmental benefits, such developments would attract considerable private investment and create employment opportunities. GWEC estimates that by 2020, more than $5 billion could be spent each year on wind power development, increasing to
$8 billion by 2030. The sector could create more than 50,000 green-collar jobs in the region’s countries by 2020.  

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