Uruguay set to become world leader in wind energy

Uruguay has set its sights on becoming one of the world’s leading wind power producers as part of plans to produce 90 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

Electricity generated from wind is expected to make up 30 per cent of the South American nation’s total mix, with hydropower contributing 45 per cent, and biomass 15 per cent, according to reports from SmartPlanet.

This would put Uruguay ahead of current renewable energy leader Denmark, which gets 26 per cent of its electrical generation from wind.

While Uruguay has a number of hydro power plants, these tend to shut down in dry periods, forcing the country to purchase electricity from Argentina at up to $400per megawatt hour (MWh). The government hopes installing wind farms could provide a more secure source of energy and drop electricity prices to around $64/MWh, well under the current price of $90/MWh.

However, to achieve its goal the country would need to raise its current 50MW wind capacity to over 1GW by 2015 and spend an estimated $7bn in upgrading its energy infrastructure.

But investment has already started to flow and the UTE state electric company has signed contracts to buy electricity from 20 private wind farms that are still to be constructed.

South America has seen rapidly increasing levels of investment in renewable energy over the past year and many analysts expect the region to lead a charge from emerging markets, which are increasingly proving fruitful for investors.

Wind industry giant Vestas last week signed a deal to supply a new 90MW wind farm in Chile, while Ecuador completed its first wind farm, a 16.5MW development in the southern province of Loja, at the start of this year.

In Asia, Thailand plans to boost renewable energy investments to manage an expected 39 per cent increase in energy demand over the next decade, while Vietnam’s government is preparing a Green Growth Strategy (GGS) encompassing low-carbon growth as well as voluntary emissions reductions and addressing other environmental challenges.

Meanwhile, Dubai has this month set a new target raising its solar energy capacity from 4.5MW to 1GW by 2030, while the South African government recently confirmed its multi-billion rand renewable energy procurement programme has now spurred 28 new green energy projects.