TBY talks to Gilberto Marín Quintero, Chairman of Impulsora Latinoamericana de Energía Renovable, on his company’s wind farm project and the potential for renewables.
TBY What are the principal characteristics of the new wind farm you are developing in Puebla State?
GILBERTO MARÍN QUINTERO First of all, the wind farm is an idea that we decided to develop according to the environmental concerns we have at PI Mabe Group. The group has always sought ecological and sustainable products. For example, we developed the “bio-baby” diaper, the first biodegradable diaper in Mexico and in the world. We joined forces with APIA XXI Group, which is a Spanish company with its headquarters in Santander, in order to explore opportunities in the renewable energy sector. It has many years of experience in the renewable energy field, and has installed wind farms in Chile and Spain, as well as in Central Europe. We joined with them, and we began to monitor the principal wind zones in Puebla. We know that Oaxaca has the best winds in the country, but we prefer Puebla because it has similar winds, but is closer to Mexico City, meaning additional logistical benefits. We began with measurement towers two years ago, and we had the support of President Calderón and his government.
What unique capabilities did APIA XXI bring to the table to make it the company of choice for the development of the facilities, and how would you describe the creation of this joint venture?
APIA XXI is a company that works remarkably faster than many other companies in the field. It has agile processes and impressive response times to any kind of issue in terms of project management and maintenance. It also has strong expertise as well as a good reputation in the wind segment. Instead of partnering with a big, slow, and expensive wind park development company, we preferred the efficiency of APIA XXI. I think it was a good choice according to the job it is doing in developing our wind park.
What impact will this project have on national energy production from renewable resources?
I think it will have an important impact because we plan to generate 364 MW in total. At present, wind power generation accounts for 509 MW in Oaxaca and 10 MW in Baja California. The state of Puebla didn’t have a wind farm before we came along. We will cut the cost of energy coming from the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). Mexico needs a stronger production capacity in order to meet the future needs of our industries, and we have the opportunity to provide a stable supply of cost-effective energy to fuel their development.
How will this new park positively affect the local communities where it will be built, and what impact will the new plant have on local power production?
We instigated a large number of social studies at the local community level about how to involve the people of the area in this project. We focused our attention on the educational aspect, and we consider our project to be a driver of tourism and infrastructure development. We will be providing a bus system for children, and they can visit the park and attend special classrooms where we provide knowledge about the wind farm as well as present environmental issues and underscore the benefits emanating from the use of renewable energy sources. We are also studying how we can boost agricultural activities in this area by providing expertise and support to the agricultural communities of the region. Of course, from a labor point of view, this project will generate new employment directly for the local community, and it will benefit everyone in Puebla state.
Do you plan to develop new wind parks in Mexico or abroad?
At present we are concentrating our efforts on this project, and we are analyzing the possibility of building others in Mexico’s different states. At the international level, we have a subsidiary in the Dominican Republic.
How would you assess the renewable energy sector in Mexico and what potential do you envision in this field?
Energy will be a fundamental aspect for Mexico’s economic development. At present, the cost of oil is increasing and it is far from being stable. Wind energy has many advantages, and Mexico can be considered one of the most important Latin American countries in terms of wind potential. It will play a fundamental role in meeting the future energy needs of the country. If we compare the current installed capacity and Mexico’s potential, there’s a large gap and we have to fill this with new projects. The government is aware of these opportunities, and it is pushing the renewable energy agenda. The framework is there, but now it needs investment from the private sector.
What role is the private sector playing in the development of the renewable energy sector in Mexico?
Most of the wind farms in Mexico have been developed by private initiative. Private industry is playing a fundamental role. I think the government should work on creating a more attractive environment in terms of the legal framework in order to stimulate further investment. A mechanism along the lines of a public-private partnership (PPP) model, which could allow for hybrid participation, could boost the development of new projects.
How do you plan to compete with international companies that are currently operating in the wind sector in Mexico?
Mexico’s energy sector is a very busy market. There are many international players such as Iberdrola and Abengoa, and they have the technology, expertise, and level of investment needed to develop these kinds of projects. Actually, there’s a lot of room in the market according to Mexico’s potential. However, for us it is better to work with a smaller company instead of a larger company, where all the processes are slow, bureaucratic, and inefficient. We are totally customer oriented, and our response time is extremely rapid. We know the market well because we are local, and we know very well how to do business in this market.
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