Shortages of gas and water

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Dwindling supplies of natural gas and plummeting water levels at hydropower reservoirs have put wind high on the list of priorities in Latin America. In Argentina, where the economy is roaring back to life, demand for natural gas has outstripped supply. The need to increase wind, geothermal and nuclear power has been highlighted in a report now being considered by the planning ministry.

Report author Gustavo Luis Bianchi says Argentina needs some 1000 MW a year of new capacity to meet demand growth. Natural gas and hydro sources will not be sufficient, he notes. At least 200 MW of new wind and geothermal generation plant should be built, he recommends. Argentina has just 26 MW of wind power, although ten projects are reported to be in the pipeline in Buenos Aires, Neuquén, Chubut, Santa Cruz and La Pampa.

Greenpeace, which has long campaigned for an Argentine wind market, believes significantly more than 200 MW could be achieved. The environment group recently unveiled a plan to reach 3000 MW of wind by 2013, while the Argentine wind generators chamber, CADGE, followed up with a short term plan to bring 300 MW online by 2007. "Wind power is an industry with an enormous future and potential in Argentina. To develop it, all that is missing are adequate political decisions," says Juan Carlos Villalonga of Greenpeace.

The supply shortage in Argentina has also compounded problems in Uruguay, which not only relies heavily on imports from its neighbour, but has seen its largest hydro plant, Salto Grande, cut output from 25,000 MWh a day to 3200 MWh due to falling water levels. Again wind power is being touted as a possible solution by state-owned power company UTE.

Last year UTE received expressions of interest to build wind farms from companies in Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Spain, the United States and Ukraine, as well as local companies, but no concrete steps have so far been taken. This could change, suggests Eliu Prada of Uruguay's Solco Energias Renovables, which hopes to build a 100 MW wind farm with Nordex of Germany. "Now we are in a severe energy crisis, these projects are starting to accelerate a little," Prada says. "Unfortunately it is still precarious. We would like to move faster but decisions are not being taken."

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