Expansion to meet customer demand -- Mexico project grows

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Mexican wind power company Fuerza Eólica has expanded its wind plant project in La Ventosa, Oaxaca state, to 150 MW to meet rising demand for electricity from the offtaker, cement manufacturer Cruz Azul, according to Mexico's energy regulator, the Comisión Reguladora de Energía (CRE).

The Fuerza Eólica del Istmo project will now be built in two phases, the first for 51 MW, scheduled to start by December instead of September 2003, and the second for 99 MW, scheduled for December 2005 instead of September 2004, according to the CRE resolution of January this year.

All of the output will go to two Cruz Azul factories under rules which allow independent power companies supplying for their own needs to skirt the CFE's monopoly. Surplus production above and beyond the guaranteed output will be sold to federal power company Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), although margins from this side of the project are low and it is "not good business," say sources close to the project.

Fuerza Eólica has partnered with Clipper Wind Power of Santa Barbara, California, to build the Fuerza Eólica del Istmo plant, which is to be located on the Tehuantepec isthmus. The partners are now evaluating tenders for equipment suppliers. They deny reports that US-based General Electric has already been chosen. According to the CRE resolution, the company is contemplating 100 turbines, each with a rated capacity of 1.5 MW -- the turbine size offered by GE Energy.

Financing details are said to be at a crucial stage. The partners have been in talks with the World Bank, as well as Mexican banks, and although there is some caution -- this is the first major wind plant in Mexico -- there is interest in providing long term low cost financing, sources say. The project is "good business" as the plant will receive a fixed price for the energy, a more reliable source of income than from power company CFE, they say.

The Tehuantepec project is the most advanced of Fuerza Eólica's projects, which include a 60 MW wind power station in Baja California and one for 30 MW in Cozumel, Quntana Roo state.

According to CRE, another wind power project has also recently delayed plans to start production. Eléctrica del Valle de México (EVM) now expects the first phase of its 180 MW plant to be operating by March 31, 2005, with the second phase ready by October 31, 2006. EVM plans to install 75 generators for a total generating capacity of 67.5 MW for the first phase and a further 125 generators for 112.5 MW in the second phase. The project is backed by Inversiones Eólicas, a renewable energy development group formed by Asociados Panamericanos, Deproe, and France's SIIF Energies.

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