Analysis: Argentina continues to build its wind industry

ARGENTINA: Argentinean turbine manufacturer NRG Patagonia has signed a contract with Spanish engineering company Solute to co-develop a 1.5MW turbine for the South American market.

Agentina has its own domestic wind industry
Agentina has its own domestic wind industry

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The turbine is to have a variable-speed generator and a tower height of 80 metres and will be aimed at class II wind locations.

NRG Patagonia has already developed and installed several models of its NRGP 64-1.5MW class I turbine at a couple of wind farms in the south of the country. However, there is another big Argentinean turbine manufacturer, Impsa, which has factories in the province of Mendoza in western Argentina and in Brazil.

The decision by a second Argentinean company to produce turbine raises a key question: How can the companies flourish in a country that is struggling while neighbouring Brazil is pushing on of the largest wind programmes on the planet? At the same time, all of Brazil's manufacturing is owned by overseas companies.

"The main difference is that Brazil has followed a different policy on developing a wind industry, and I think a more realistic one than Argentina," said Erico Spinadel, president of the Argentine Wind Energy Association.

Brazilian model

"Brazil helps companies from abroad to install wind projects and create jobs in the country. It is more interested in creating conditions for these enterprises to come to the country, pay taxes, obey the law and use local labour. In Argentina, we aim to create all components, which is nonsense."

In Brazil, there are several domestic companies operating in the entire production chain of the wind industry, according to Elbia Melo, CEO of Brazilian wind energy association Abeeolica. "But there is not yet a wind turbine completely manufactured in Brazil," he added.

"It is also important to note that all manufacturers that have factories in Brazil are increasing the input of domestic products, driven by new funding rules of BNDES (Brazil's national development bank)," Melo pointed out.

In the case of Argentinia, however, turbine manufacturers are more likely to enter the wind market as a natural progression of their business, as was the case with Impsa. "Pescarmona, the owner of Impsa, has more than a hundred years' experience in the metal industry, with a presence in many countries, and it is a recognised player for building large hydro turbines and cranes for containers. For example, it has plants in India," said Spinadel.

And then there is history. "In Argentina there is a long tradition of using windmills to pump water in the Pampas, Spinadel adds. "There used to be 600,000 windmills; Today there are still between 200,000 and 300,000, and this is related to the fact that to deliver electricity to these remote areas triples the price of a kilowatt hour."

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