State plan attracts first industry venture -- Mitsubishi and US blade maker head for Mexico joint venture

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Oaxaca state in south west Mexico is promoting the construction of 2000 MW of wind power development over the next 15 years worth $2.5 billion. The scale of the plan is smaller than earlier reports of a $5 billion, 6000 MW wind project in Oaxaca (Windpower Monthly, January 2002), but is large enough to have attracted serious wind industry attention. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan is planning a joint blade manufacturing venture in Mexico with American wind industry member, TPI Composites of Rhode Island.

Thirteen companies are involved in Mexico's wind power development plan, eight of them European -- Endesa, Gamesa Energia, Iberdrola, and Fuerza Eólica from Spain, DeWind and Fuhrländer from Germany, ABB Finland, and SIIF of France. Most of these companies are also in the process of trying to carve out a share of the Brazilian wind market. The remaining five companies are from the US, says Fernando Miniaga, who heads the Oaxaca government's small and medium companies department, adding there is also interest from Holland and Denmark. Mitsubishi's involvement is via its wholly owned subsidiary in Florida.

The area earmarked for development is on the Tehuantepec isthmus. According to the country's energy efficiency council, Comisión Nacional para el Ahorro de Energía, it offers over 1000 square kilometres exposed to very strong winds caused by marine conditions.

Oaxaca is keen to develop the region and Miniaga's department sees wind projects as a means of creating jobs. "A blade factory would employ at least 80 people, a tower factory 100," he says. "If wind developers set up in the state, Oaxaca could become not only a manufacturing and expertise sector for the Mexican market but could also export at a regional level, where Costa Rica would be an important market."

Mitsubishi expects its proposed ยด1 billion blade factory to produce rotors for 400, 1 MW turbines a year, with production slated to start in July. The company sold 283 turbines last year, all but one to the US. From TPI Composites, Steve Lockard declines to comment on the plan, as yet.

Utility talks

Oaxaca state has begun negotiations with federal authorities such as regulator Comisión Reguladora de Energía, to secure permits for wind plant, and the country's power monopoly Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), to negotiate the construction of a higher capacity transmission line to take power from the site to the grid. The present transmission line handles only 500 MW.

Oaxaca is favoured by federal level support for renewables. In October the Mexican government detailed plans to bring 2000 MW of renewable energy on-line by the time President Vicente Fox's term ends in 2006. Furthermore, Mexico is heavily industrialised and has many large scale power clients in search of carbon credits who see purchases of green power as one way to acquire them.

Of key importance to developers is how the private sector will be allowed to play a role in power supply. Mexico is fiercely nationalist. Under present regulations private generators can only generate power for their own use, to supply the CFE, or to sell a fixed amount to the CFE and surpluses on the market. A bill to privatise the power market is on its way, but Congress has historically proved to be a graveyard for anything that even smells of privatisation. Miniaga, however, is confident the regulations in force are sufficient for private sector companies to be guaranteed payment.

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