Both Uruguay and Chile have recently taken steps to expand their wind-energy capabilities, but there are differing perceptions on how committed each country is to this type of renewable energy.
In the case of Uruguay, the country has made a full commitment to include wind energy as an integral part of its energy matrix. In April 2011, President José Mujica's administration signed a number of agreements and opened bids for the private sector to build several wind parks in the next four years that will allow the country to add 500 megawatts of energy produced by the generous winds that sweep across almost the entire territory. The option, according to experts, is one of life or death, because the country has almost exhausted its hydroelectric-power-generation capabilities and must import 100% of the oil it consumes.
Chile is gradually plugging wind power into its otherwise conventional electricity grid. In February, French multinational GDF Suez cut the ribbon on five new generators for its Monte Redondo wind park in the Coquimbo Region, roughly 325 km north of Santiago. With the expansion, Monte Redondo now boasts an installed capacity of 48 MW.
Given that, until four years ago, Chile had just a single wind-power facility in operation (a 2 MW, three-windmill station in the far southern Aysén region), growth of the wind sector has been rapid. The country's wind-power capacity has increased more than eightyfold since 2007, when Endesa opened the country's first proper wind farm, the 18.2 MW Canela I in coastal Coquimbo. Endesa opened Canela II--a 60 MW expansion--two years later. GDG Suez inaugurated Monte Redondo the same year, and, in January 2010, Norway's SN Power opened the 48 MW El Totoral wind park, also in Coquimbo.
But the contribution of the wind-power sector to overall electricity supply in Chile remains minimal, leading some analysts to question whether the country's private energy providers are really ready to welcome the proverbial winds of change.
Mexico is another country that is gradually implementing wind power as an alternative source of energy. We addressed that topic in the March issue of NotiEn. But the country's efforts remain focused on hydrocarbons. The state-run oil company PEMEX recently announced that it is looking into the possibility of acquiring a partial or full share of at least one refinery in the US to increase its processing capacity and boost the domestic supply of gasoline. The move would complement the government's plan to construct the Refinería Bicentenario in Hidalgo state.