CFE to Move on Hydroelectric Updates, Solar and PipelinesBy Cas Biekmann | Fri, 07/16/2021 - 15:47
General Director of CFE, Manuel Bartlett, outlined future investment projects for the state utility in a call with its Board of Directors. Bartlett discussed the results of a study on a 2020 blackout, alliances to complete natural gas pipelines, hydroelectric power plant modernization and the ambitious new solar park. CFE’s transmission plans stemming from PRODESEN were also part of the discussion.
Bartlett also addressed a recent independent opinion describing what caused a significant blackout in late 2020. A group of experts confirmed that a fire that began in a municipal garbage dump was a major factor, but they also found irregularities near the interconnection of Acciona’s San Carlos wind farm, which CFE claims did not yet have an interconnection permit from CENACE. Other factors such as unusually low demand and high intermittency worsened the issues already present in the country’s stumbling transmission network.
CFE’s power producing arm proposed to find strategic allies to complete a 75 km stretch of the Guaymas - El Oro pipeline, as well as 100 km part of the Tuxpan – Tula pipeline. The company also suggested restructuring contracts with IEnova and TC Energía to address social issues around pipeline construction and better integrate the SISTRANGAS system, which would allow CFE to optimize its investments. The board approved this proposal unanimously. Rocio Nahle, head of the board, stressed that CFE needs to renegotiate contracts to the benefit of its operation where possible, nevertheless should respect its legal commitments.
The utility’s transmission and distribution arm brought up projects set out in sector development plan PRODESEN. Working to guarantee a stable and reliable electricity supply across the country, the subsidiary aims to increase transmission capacity to meet growing demand in the tourist areas of Yucatan peninsula and in the Northwestern region of Mexico.
With an investment of US$1 billion through an “innovative financial mechanism”, CFE will modernize turbines, generators and transformers in 14 hydroelectric facilities that have lost some power over the years. This will increase its annual generation with 1,860GWh and strengthen CFE’s renewable capacity with around 800MW of nameplate capacity. Based on these upgrades, CFE hopes that the power plants will be able to run for another 50 years. The process is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024. “This has a great economic value,” said Bartlett. He acknowledged that generating electricity using large bodies of water is straining, though ultimately worth the effort because CFE can generate stable renewable energy without causing further social issues by constructing new projects.
Following up on CFE’s renewable ambitions, Bartlett briefly mentioned the Puerto Peñasco solar project in Sonora that President López Obrador had revealed earlier. The power plant should have around a 1,000MW capacity, making it the largest photovoltaic solar plant in Latin America and the eighth largest worldwide. CFE is to hold the majority share in the project with 56 percent, whereas the state of Sonora holds the remaining 46 percent.