NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 18, 2009

Mexico's Isthmus of Tehuantepecon is becoming the Saudi Arabia of alternative energy as U.S. and European companies rush to stake their claims in one of the world's windiest places.  The Mexican government wants the isthmus to produce 2,500 megawatts within three years, a goal that would catapult Mexico into the top 12 producers of wind energy, says USA Today.

The Mexican government began mapping the wind for possible wind farms in the 1990s. The projects have gone into high gear since the inauguration of President Felipe Calderón, a former energy minister who pushed through legal changes last year allowing more private investment in the state-controlled energy sector.

And high oil price have made wind energy look like an increasingly good investment, says USA Today:

  • Windmill technology, too, has improved; lighter materials mean blades can be longer and generators have gotten more powerful.
  • A single turbine, such as the 2.5-megawatt Liberty, built by California-based Clipper Windpower, can power 625 to 700 average U.S. homes; Clipper is installing 27 of them in the isthmus.
  • Calderón has pledged to have the region producing at least 2,500 megawatts by the time his term ends in 2012; that's enough for as many as 700,000 average U.S. homes.

Isthmus towns are buzzing with excitement as engineers from Spain, Germany, France and the United States fill restaurants and hotels.  But the rush has brought discord, as building crews slice through irrigation canals, divide pastures and cover crops with dust. Some farmers complain they were tricked into renting their land for as little as $46 an acre annually.

Further, opponents fear the generators are the first step toward privatizing Mexico's energy sector. And some residents are angry that the generated electricity is not going to the poorest homes, but to power Wal-Mart stores, Cemex cement plants and other industrial customers, says USA Today.

Source: Chris Hawley, "Clean-energy windmills a 'dirty business' for farmer in Mexico," USA Today, June 17, 2009.

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