Wind developers move beyond Oaxaca

MEXICO: Three new wind projects to be built outside Mexico's wind energy stronghold of Oaxaca were announced in the space of a week in June. The announcements indicate that a combination of technological and regulatory changes are encouraging geographic expansion of wind energy in the country.

The largest of the three projects is a $2.5 billion investment by Cannon Power Group for three wind farms with a total capacity of around 1GW. Deploying Gamesa turbines, the wind farms will be built on sites in Zacatecas, Yucatan and Baja California.

Next Energy has unveiled plans for a $48-million 22MW wind farm using GE 2.75MW turbines. The development will be located in the municipality of Santa Catarina, which has average wind speeds of 6.2m/s, and will supply electricity to Monterrey, the largest city in the northern state of Nuevo Leon. Finally, Vestas has announced plans to supply 16 V90 turbines to a 29MW wind farm planned in Chiapas.

The expansion outside Oaxaca has been boosted by the advent of turbines that extract more power from lower wind speeds. These are providing opportunities for developers in states that have steady winds, but not the high averages above 10m/s that Oaxaca boasts, says Timothy Stephure, an analyst at Emerging Energy Research.

Oaxaca's higher speeds are generated by sharp air pressure differentials experienced for much of the year due to its unique position, thinly spread as it is between the Atlantic and Pacific.

"There is improved technology in lower wind resource environments and a lot of new machines that boost capacity factors," added Stephure. Wind developers also benefit from "dramatically cheaper turbines", which in turn means producers can charge less for their energy, explained Stephure.

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