SANTIAGO, Chile, June 27 (UPI) -- Chile has set sights on expanding wind power generation as President Sebastian Pinera's government battles environmental controversies over multibillion dollar mining and hydrocarbon projects.
This week Pinera opened a new $150 million wind farm in northern Chile built in collaboration with Italy's Enel Green Power. It is the largest wind farm to begin operating in Chile as the government considers other renewable energy projects.
The 90-megawatt Talinay East facility is owned by Italy's Enel Green Power and features 45 Vestas V100 2-megawatt turbines in the Coquimbo region, 250 miles north of Santiago.
Pinera said he would continue to expand renewable energy development and predicted at least 80 percent of about 500 megawatt of power to be added annually to the national grid would be "clean renewable energy."
Pinera has not outlined how much of the funding over the coming years will be coming from the state and how the remainder of the project finance will be raised.
Chile's clean power program will be boosted through a series of what analysts called rationalization measures. These include plans to link two major independent grids and new transmission lines.
The government also hopes to simplify legislation and regulatory framework surrounding land use related to electrical distribution networks.
Chile's infrastructure was severely damaged in a magnitude 8.8 earthquake in February 2010. Numerous aftershocks that year and in following years caused further havoc and put additional burden on government resources. Several energy exploration and development plans were affected.
The Talinay East wind farm is similar to another Enel facility, Valle de los Vientos, in the northern region of Antofagasta, which features an identical array of Vestas turbines.
Enel acquired Talinay from Vestas in 2012. The wind farm was previously owned by Spain's Enhol and business conglomerate Grupo Phoenix.
Vestas said Talinay's development was "a strategic environmental decision." The company aims to continue increasing the share of renewable energy sources in global energy consumption.
The construction of Talinay East started in late 2011 but completion was delayed.
Latin America has a wind installed base of more than 2,000 megawatt. Given a positive political framework supporting the development of wind energy, data suggests there could be 93,300 megawatt of wind installations by 2030.
Chile is aiming to reduce dependence on thermo-electric energy, which takes up about 67.8 percent of total production. It is also fighting to eliminate coal-fueled electricity production, but progress is slow.
Environmentalist campaign groups oppose further expansion of hydroelectric power, currently about 31 percent of the total, just as advocacy organizations oppose new mining operations across Chile.