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News Article

Wind Energy Now Reaching Full Growth

By Pedro Alcalá | Thu, 03/11/2021 - 17:41

You can watch the video of this panel here.

Wind energy is beginning to adopt the characteristics of a resilient and well established industry at a global scale. This assertive notion became a recurring theme during the panel titled “Opportunities Across the Wind Industry Project Lifecycle,” during Mexico Energy Forum 2021 on Thursday, Mar. 11. The panel was moderated by Veronica Zapata Oviedo, Kino Asset Manager at Enel Green Power. Zapata Oviedo said wind energy technology was at the tail end of a long process of maturation. Now, the industry was working with top-of-the-line components that were uniquely adapted to their own scenarios. “Technology has allowed us to constantly improve wind power. Today, we have a better acquisition portfolio and fewer interruptions in this alternative energy.” Zapata Oviedo began the discussion by asking panelists about their experiences regarding remaining obstacles to wind energy development. 

David Martínez, Director de SPV's Mexico at Envision Energy, explained that wind energy is still very new to Mexico when compared to Europe, with the first wind turbine being installed in 1994, over a century after the first wind turbine was installed in Scotland. For Martínez, the prevailing challenges in the industry are more about technological implementation rather than culture. Martínez argued that upcoming onshore turbine projects in Mexico still need to adopt the latest characteristics in terms of size, which could reach up to 200m of rotor diameter and challenge the usual limit of 164m. This could also mean higher levels of generation capacity and energy efficiency. Martínez believes that technology that is classified as “modern” is perhaps not innovative or disruptive enough, so more up to date technologies need to be implemented to embrace advantages like integrated data management in wind energy assets that can optimize decision-making, making weather predictions and coordinating wind turbine arrays through digital platforms and IoT systems together with storage solutions. “Storage systems are not the future but the present. As a result, Envision Energy is promoting modern systems throughout Mexico.”

Turbine dimension was an important issue for panelist Albert Sunyer Folch, Mexico Country Manager of Nordex & Acciona Windpower, who added to what Martínez said by making clear that new turbine sizes and technological capabilities had to be adopted. This included not just larger towers and rotor diameters but also hybrid turbines. He also explained that turbines needed to be designed to take advantage of a variety of wind conditions. “We have launched rotors for areas that are favorable for wind power and also for areas that are not so favorable. We have managed to optimize resources despite their limitations.” Zapata Oviedo agreed with both panelists when she expressed her marvel at the scales and capabilities of generation that the newest turbines were now able to reach when compared to technology from 10 years ago.  

Industry best practices came up through panelist Enric Català Roig, Senior Sales Director for Latin America at Vestas, who said safety came first. Moreover, Catalá said those practices could be divided into traditional best practices and the more recently developed ones that depended entirely on technology, such as remote monitoring and asset integrity management. “We believe that in recent years, there has been an important revolution in the sector. With new technology, we have been able to optimize operations and maintenance of our equipment,” said Català. He also noted the enormous growth in the industry’s maintenance workforce, in part aided by new workshops and academic plans focused on component design, fabrication and manufacturing. Zapata Oviedo agreed, noting that none of these degrees specialized in wind energy existed when the industry was beginning. All of this leads to the development of technologies and tools that can be more reliably used in different conditions. 

Other industry obstacles were also discussed in relation to offshore wind energy development. Sunyer Folch said that Mexico’s abundant onshore opportunities outweighed offshore development. He also said that Mexico had to solve many issues in states where wind potential exists, including Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Oaxaca. Transmission bottlenecks must be resolved through the development of more infrastructure. "I do not see the need for offshore projects, since Mexico has a very high onshore potential that has not been fully exploited," agreed Català Roig. However, he did consider offshore wind development in the long term, giving Mexico time to begin building a regulatory framework so projects can at least enter the planning phases of their development cycle, which can sometimes take up to a decade. Martínez also agreed, saying that in Mexico it is more common to develop onshore projects. “However, we bet on offshore projects, as well. We are developing a flexible turbine that adapts to both proposals.”

Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Senior Journalist & Industry Analyst