Uruguay firms up wind power ambition

Uruguay has confirmed plans to install 500MW of wind power by 2015, 300MW of which will be the result of requests for proposals to be completed this year.

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Of the 22 projects that bid for the 150MW put out for proposal in July, 21 are still in the running, junior energy minister RamOn Mendez said last month. Ten of those bid prices under $91/MWh, the lowest being for a project in Maldonado for $80/MWh.

Fifteen companies responded to the July call for proposals, including France's Akuo Energy, Elecnor of Spain, German Sowitec and Brazil's Impsa. Some foreign firms bid alone, others in partnership with local firms.

Bids are currently ranked according to the price offered and the cost of connecting to the grid. But this may change significantly, says Mendez, once the so-called "national component" is factored in. Up to 40% of a bid's value can be generated by employing materials and processes that directly benefit the Uruguayan economy.

The projects to be built, which range between 30MW and 50MW, will be located in the east, centre and south of the country (see map, above right). Mendez estimates it will take up to three years for these projects to become operational.

Another call for proposals for 150MW is due to be launched at the end of April and completed by year-end. State-owned electricity utility UTE will build the remaining 200MW needed to reach the planned 500MW. It proposes to do this in co-operation with private firms, according to UTE's director Gonzalo Casaravilla.

Uruguay has 26MW of installed wind power, including the Nuevo Manantial park in Rocha and the Parque Eolica Sierra de los Caracoles in Maldonado. According to the energy ministry, electricity generation at these wind farms is outperforming average international standards. This engenders optimism for the new planned developments. Mendez is hopeful that by 2015, on a windy night, 70% of the country's electricity will be generated by wind.

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