Last week Peru's government approved wind, solar, micro hydro, and biomass energy projects that will add 500 megawatts of clean, renewable energy, meeting 12% of the current electricity needs of the country.
This is a crucial boost for a country that currently produces 80% of its electricity via hydroelectric power-- an uncertain resource of energy going forward. Peru's Andean glaciers provide most of the water for hydroelectric dams and they are expected to melt by 2022 as a result of global warming and climate change. However, Peru's El Comercio suggests that in addition to the more well-known alternative energy projects the government has approved, up to 500 megawatts of energy will also be produced by up to 17 small micro hydro projects that might not be dependent on the glaciers. Some of these facilities are already operational but did not have government contracts prior to this time.
Twenty companies competed for the rights to develop renewable energy sources in Peru, but only five had their projects approved. Cupisnique and Talara, coastal locations near the northern cities of Cajamarca and Piura will be the first places where wind farms will be constructed in Peru by the company Energia Eólica. The farms will be completed by June of 2012. Several other companies will also build wind farms and solar energy facilities, including Corsorcio Cobra Peru, Tacna Solar, Panamericana Solar, and Grupo T-Solar. Operations to produce energy from biomass sources like methane and sugarcane have also been approved in Lima.
Energy costs are expected to increase by 1% to help pay for these new facilities, but the long-term benefits the clean energy will provide far outweigh the short-term costs. They might also help avert a catastrophic humanitarian disaster if Peru loses its Andean glaciers as is predicted.
Wind energy has particularly strong potential in Peru and could adequately provide for all of the country's energy needs. According to a spanish alternative energy website, the World Meteorology Organization says Peru has 28 of the 32 climates appropriate for wind power generation, and that in the country's coastline alone, there is a potential capacity of 65,152 megawatts.
Image Courtesy of Tehzeta on Flickr