Analysis: Colombian wind potential held up by hydro

COLOMBIA: Colombia's potential for hydroelectric capacity could delay the development of wind energy in the country for several years, despite new legislation supporting wind and solar, the head of the country's largest energy group told Windpower Monthly.

The Los Cururos project being opened by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet
The Los Cururos project being opened by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet

"The trouble is that Colombia has a gigantic wealth of hydraulic resources, we can still grow a long way in hydroelectric generation, that is our strength," said Juan Esteban Calle, CEO of utility Empresas Publicas de Medellin (EPM).

"As a result, alternative energies such as wind have not seen significant development," he said.

Earlier this year Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos enacted legislation to promote renewable energy, including wind, solar and small hydro, especially in the large areas of the country not connected to the national power grid and are therefore dependent on expensive and dirty diesel turbines.

EPM already operates Colombia's only wind farm, the 19.5MW Jepirahchi project in the Guajira peninsula, an area of significant wind potential comparable with Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia in South America, and the company is looking at further opportunities.

"We are very interesting in developing [wind projects]. They are still at the study stage. We believe that in the medium term Colombia will present very good opportunities for wind generation," Calle said at the inauguration of EPM's Los Cururos wind farm in Chile.

The 109.6MW project, located 330 kilometres north of Santiago, is the company's's first investment in Chile, a country which the group has long wanted to enter and where it is now studying a range of opportunities in electricity, gas, water and sanitation. "We hope to become an important player in the Chilean market," Calle said, highlighting the country's potential for small hydroelectric plants.

The company is also keen to enter markets in Brazil, Peru and Costa Rica. However, Calle played down plans to build a wind farm in Costs Rica. "We do not have any concrete opportunities there yet," he said.

Developed by Germany's Eolic Partners and built and operated by Denmark's Vestas, the Los Cururos project consists of 57 1.8MW and 2MW turbines distributed over two contiguous properties in the Ovalle district, a hotspot for wind power generation in Chile.

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