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Uruguay deficit likely to speed windpower plans

June 4, 2013 at 4:27 PM   |   Comments

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, June 4 (UPI) -- Uruguay's plans for expanding wind power generation capacity are being pushed forward by concerns over the country's expanding trade deficit.

A net importer of crude oil, Uruguay faced another spike in its trade deficit at the end of April this year, highlighting the demands made on export earnings by the country's dependence on energy imports.

President Jose Mujica announced ambitious plans two years ago to expand wind power's share in energy production but those plans are in early stages.

Forecasts that up to 90 percent of Uruguay's energy needs will be met with wind power and other renewable sources by 2015 are now widely discounted as being overoptimistic. However, that doesn't cancel out Uruguay's active wind power expansion program.

Electricity generated from wind is expected to make up 30 percent of the total energy mix in Uruguay, with hydroelectric power contributing 45 percent, and biomass 15 percent, data from the BusinessGreen and SmartPlanet websites indicated.

The projections are close enough but implementation is likely to be stretched farther into the future than 2015, analysts said.

This week Vestas Wind Systems wind technology major received a 90-megawatt turbine order from Compania Forestal Uruguaya S.A. for the installation of 30 3-megawatt turbines in a new power plant in Pintado, south-central Uruguay.

Officials say the plant should be up and running and generating electricity by the middle of next year.

Vestas was contracted to deliver and install the turbines and to commission and operate the plant.

COFUSA President Juan Otegui said Vestas was the right choice of an international partner for the project. "We are confident that Vestas, the global leader in wind energy solutions, is the reliable partner for our project in Pintado," Otegui said.

Vestas South America Vice President Miguel Picardo Troyano indicated Uruguay's emphasis on wind power expansion points to a global trend.

"More and more companies around the world are increasingly seeing renewable energy as a solid business opportunity and as a way of contributing to widening the countries' energy mix," he said.

The Pintado wind power plant is projected to generate more than 381,000 megawatts of electricity per year. Its backers say the plant will save the environment from nearly 117,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

Uruguay depends largely on hydroelectric power generation but many of the plants are idle in dry spells. The government hopes wind power expansion will ease the country's dependence on costly electricity imports from Argentina.

Mujica has seen his approval ratings slip because of a faltering economy and fears the country faces a downturn in growth.

Uruguay's neighbors are also pursuing wind farm projects to cut back on fuel imports. Argentina has indicated it wants to increase renewable energy capacity as well as nuclear power generation.

Topics: Jose Mujica
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