Particularities of the Baja California Energy ModelWed, 02/19/2014 - 14:12
Q: How has the energy mix of Baja California evolved in recent years?
A: Baja California is different from every other Mexican state because it is not connected to the national grid. Also, the weather here makes the summer peak load very high compared to the winter load and we are located on the border. During the California energy crisis, two companies built combined cycle natural gas facilities in Mexicali to generate power and export it to the Californian market. As a result, we have pipelines that come from Arizona and California, as well as the Energía Costa Azul LNG terminal. These are the traits that make Baja California’s energy mix quite different.
Q: What is Baja California’s potential for wind, solar and geothermal?
A: Geothermal was the first one to be studied and exploited. CFE operates 720MW of capacity, making it the second largest geothermal field in the world. If CFE would invest in the binary cycles of geothermal facilities, they could exploit the geothermal potential even more. The wind potential in Baja California is around 1,500MW, but the potential for solar is much greater since our territory receives a solar irradiation of more than 5.5kWh/m2 per day.
Q: What is being done to develop Baja California’s renewables potential?
A: We have helped and promoted the creation of the Mexican Center for Geothermal Innovation. The governor of Baja California is supporting CFE to find additional geothermal energy sources. We also hope that companies in Mexicali see geothermal as a potential energy source, not just for electricity, but for heating and cooling as well. Not all of Baja California’s wind potential is economically and environmentally viable to develop. Baja California has a lot of national parks, which are all excluded from potential development. That leaves 1,500MW of feasible capacity, but much of that will depend on the access to technology, the impact of tariffs and the different permit modalities given by CRE. CFE is developing three stages of 100MW installed wind capacity each at La Rumorosa, and Sempra is building the 156MW Energía Sierra Juárez wind farm. The state of Baja California will be an off-taker for these projects.
Q: How is the solar sector developing in Baja California?
A: In 2006, we had only three or four commercially operational installers and developers, whereas now, the state has at least ten developers with experience in offgrid and grid-connected systems. We are trying to attend to utility-scale facilities, while also having a program specifically designed for small businesses. We have seen big announcements made by large companies, stating they would develop many megawatts of solar energy here, but some of these have fallen by the wayside. This has nothing to do with Baja California itself and we still welcome such large investments. Distributed generation in the commercial and residential sectors has proven to be a steadier supply and has a far greater influence on creating local jobs.
Q: Do you think other regions of Mexico should focus on smaller solar projects as you do?
A: Everyone should but they do not because larger projects look better for PR purposes. Small distributed generation projects just make more sense for us. Baja California has a ridiculously high solar potential if you look at kWh/m2 figures. But if you do not have any likely off-takers that can harness the potential of that square meter, it is ridiculous to say that we have 2,000MW waiting to be tapped.
Q: What do you see as the energy priorities for Baja California in the next five years?
A: We need to keep focusing on energy efficiency for disadvantaged families. We also need to incorporate new technologies for smart metering. Currently, CFE is sending its people door to door to read the meters. Because of weather conditions and fear of unsafe neighborhoods, a lot of meter readers are making educated guesses about power consumption. But there are remote metering systems today which make going from house to house obsolete. We ask the Mexican government to incorporate very simple technologies that would help with the realities of Baja California. Urban sprawl is becoming a problem, which means more roads, more power lines and more water systems, and is completely energy inefficient. Finding a solution and promoting vertical integration in towns and cities would allow for district energy solutions as well as for the potential of distributed PV to be fully explored.