Peru: Capturing wind power
As Peru’s economy continues to experience rapid growth, an obstacle looms in the not so distant future. Unless serious measures are taken, and quickly, the country will soon suffer a major energy shortage. Jorge Merino, the minister of energy and mines, told local press that the country currently requires 5000MW of electricity annually. “If we want to continue to grow at a rate of greater than 7%, the demand for electricity will double in the next 10 years,” he said.
In 2011, Peru’s capacity for electricity generation grew by 1%, while demand for electricity increased by 10%. This clearly unsustainable trend is leading the authorities to consider new options for expanding and diversifying the country’s energy grid.
Chief among these new alternatives is wind energy. Wind energy works by using “wind farms”, clusters of windmills or turbines, to capture the kinetic energy produced by the wind and convert it into electricity.
According to the Atlas of Wind Energy, published by the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), Peru’s wind has the potential to produce up to 77,394MW of power. The ministry further estimates that 22,452MW could be produced in easily accessible areas, away from populated town centres, archaeological sites or rivers and lakes.
Broken down by region, Peru’s northern coast holds strong potential for wind energy production. It is estimated that the region of Piura could produce up to 17,628MW of power. Cajamarca, to the southeast of Piura, is even more promising, with potential for 18,360MW, though only 3450MW can be derived from easily accessible areas.
But it is Ica, in southern Peru, which holds the greatest capacity for wind energy production. Wind farms in Ica have the potential to produce up to 18,360MW of energy, of which 9144MW are easily accessible.
Tapping into this abundant energy resource would not only help the country satisfy a growing demand for energy but would also help reduce reliance on fossil fuels, such as gas. Wind energy is a pure, non-pollutant source of electricity generation with no carbon dioxide output.
Currently, the wind energy industry is still in its early stages in Peru. The country has no wind farms just yet, only a handful of experimental wind turbines.
Bob Jalapour, business development manager at Clipper Windpower, a US-based wind power company, told OBG of some of the challenges to develop this market in Peru. “For the moment, energy prices remain too low to support wide-scale development. Peru also lacks the capacity to transport electricity from good wind resources to load centres. Building this transmission network will require a lot of capital,” according to Jalapour.
Nonetheless, Clipper, like many other companies, remains interested in exploring investment options in Peru. Indeed, other competitors have already begun to stake their claims.
In 2010, Energía Eólica, a Lima-based firm, was awarded a contract by the state to develop two wind farms on the northern coast. The Cupisnique plant, located in the region of La Libertad, will have a capacity for 80MW. Further north, a new wind farm in Piura will have a capacity for 30MW. Together, the projects will require investment of $370m.
At the same time, Consorcio Cobra Perú - Perú Energía Renovable signed a contract with the state to develop a wind farm in the southern region of Ica. The firm estimates potential output to be around 32MW.
In February 2011, Salka Perú received a concession agreement granting the company the right to evaluate the possibility of constructing a 750MW wind farm in one of the northern regions. Lambayeque, Pacasmayo and La Libertad are all up for consideration. Salka will have two years to complete the feasibility study.
Most recently, in August 2011, MEM approved a plan that will allow Nordwind, a German company specialising in wind energy, to construct the Cerro Chocán wind farm in the Piura region. The project, which will require investment of $572m, will produce 260MW of power. The wind farm will be built in two phases. The first phase will involve the installation of 30 wind turbines, followed by an additional 100 turbines.
Finally, the company Parque Eólica Marcona appears to be advancing with plans to construct a smaller wind farm in Ica. The director-general of energy and environmental issues recently approved a study of environmental impact. The project will require an investment of $43.64m.
As Peru faces the possibility of a severe energy crunch in the near future, it appears that the country’s windy coastline may hold at least part of the solution for meeting a growing demand for electricity.