Puerto Rico’s Wind of Change

Puerto Rico moves closer to its renewable energy targets as it begins to harness its available renewable energy sources.
Published: Wed 31 Oct 2012

What happened

Puerto Rico can look forward to a 95MW boost of clean renewable energy, thanks to the country’s first commercial-scale wind power project in Santa Isabel, reports BNAmericas.

Background

Pattern Energy's Finca de Viento Santa Isabel (FVSI) wind project, also the largest in the Caribbean, has just started operations after five years of planning and construction. The project consists of 44 Siemens SWT-2.3-108 wind turbines. An agreement between Pattern and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), reveals that FVSI will be producing 20MW more power than it was originally set to produce. This was done without having to increase the size of the project.

Hunter Armistead, executive director of Pattern Energy, describes the extra 20MW as significant because it is equivalent to the production of an average medium-sized renewable energy project. It also adds an additional 15% of clean energy in to the country’s power grid. The facility will be producing enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of 30,000 homes. The additional power output supports the government’s commitment to decrease the country’s dependence on oil by diversifying energy sources to generate cheaper, cleaner and safer energy, writes Caribbean News Now.

The Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno’s administration has set an ambitious plan to diversify the island’s energy sources. The administration aims to meet and surpass its goal of generating 12% renewable energy by 2015, 15% by 2020 and 20% by 2035. According to Fortuno, renewable energy projects totaling 220MW, are under construction in several areas of the island. The AES Ilumina solar project in Guayama has recently been inaugurated and other projects, such as Gestamp’s wind farm in Punta Lima, Naguabo, are due for completion. Currently, the country’s renewable energy output represents less than 5%.

PREPA executive director Josue Colon, explains that these projects will make the power system stronger and more diverse and will aid efforts to lower the island’s energy production costs. Energy costs in the Caribbean are among the world’s highest because most islands rely on imported oil for fuel and islands are unable to tap neighbor’s electric grids to reduce power costs. According to Caribbean Business, Puerto Rico’s electricity now runs about 26 cents per KWh, more than double the U.S. average.

Fortuno adds that these projects are good for the environment and the economy. Finca de Viento Santa Isabel alone has attracted US$250m in private investments and provided employment for 350 locals. Fortuno explains that the facility will continue to generate income and contribute to the local economy for the next 20 years. Pattern has entered into a 20-year power purchase and operating agreement with local power authority AEE for the wind farm’s output.

Caribbean News Now quotes Hunter Armistead, executive director of Pattern Energy, who describes the completion of the project as a “major milestone for renewable energy production in Puerto Rico…”

Last Word

It is essential that Puerto Rico meets it ambitious renewable energy goals in order to introduce a wider energy mix, with less reliance on pricey oil imports. Renewable energy projects are injecting much needed investment in to the island’s energy sector and employment is on the increase, not to mention the environmental benefits. However, the island is known for its many challenges, slowing the progress of these projects. The government has been slow to issue permits, environmentalists have stopped projects because of concerns over migratory birds, landowners protest the wind projects’ locations and companies are challenged by the island’s incredibly strong winds and hurricanes. However slow the progress, the island’s government does seem to be working steadily towards its renewable energy targets. This is definitely a country to watch.

Sources

BNAmericas-Pattern wind farm begins operation

Caribbean News Now-First commercial wind project in Puerto Rico begins operations

Renewable Energy Magazine-Energy production begins at Puerto Rico’s first commercial wind farm

The Sacramento Bee-Pattern Energy Begins Operations at First Commercial Wind Project in Puerto Rico