Rule changes speed wind towards target

MEXICO: Mexico's 2.5GW wind power target is likely to be met well in advance of its target date of 2025, according to officials from a government-run research centre and the Mexican Wind Energy Association (AMDEE).

The nation's wind capacity, overwhelmingly concentrated in southern state Oaxaca, has already reached 530MW, AMDEE told the Wind Power Mexico conference in Mexico City in May. Oaxaca alone will add 750MW by the end of this year, AMDEE president Leopoldo Rodriguez told the conference.

"We could be up to 2.6GW in Oaxaca by 2014," Rodriguez said. He cited changes in the regulatory environment and the willingness of many parties in the government and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) in making this possible.

State-run CFE has a monopoly on transmission and retail electricity delivery. Large industrial customers can choose to buy power from producers using CFE lines, but only if they have long-term contracts. Until the early 1990s, CFE also had exclusive rights to produce electricity.

The greatest innovation was the creation of a scheme called the open season where developers committed to renting capacity power lines linking Oaxaca's windy areas to the main grid, in exchange for a CFE commitment to build 2GW of capacity. After years of negotiating, the agreement was finally made in 2008.

According to AMDEE data, prior to this scheme, some 664MW of projects had been planned. Projects directly linked to it are nearly 1.9GW more. Acciona is set to bring some 304MW online this year alone.

"I am glad to hear of new possible open seasons in Oaxaca and Tamaulipas," Rodriguez added. A second round of similar transmission capacity is needed in Oaxaca because there continues to be interest in new projects even though the first lines are full. Tamaulipas, a state facing the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to have 101MW installed by the end of this year. There are also nearly 2GW of projects planned for Baja California, targeting power companies in neighbouring US state of California. At present, Baja has only one project in production, of 10MW, but there are three 1GW projects already under construction.

"The figures the government is using were published two decades ago," said Mario Borja, who heads wind research at the state-run Electrical Studies Institute (IEE). He cited the massive growth of turbine capacity from a few hundred kilowatts at the start of the 1990s, to 2MW now and some experimental prototypes of more than 7MW.

"I don't see why Mexico can't reach 6% of production by 2025, which would be 3TWh, which implies 12GW of capacity."

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