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Will 2016 be the year of geothermal energy in Mexico?

Los Azufres III, Phase 1 (Unit 17) geothermal power plant, Mexico (source: ThinkGeoEnergy, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 6 Jan 2016

A recent article in the Mexican media talks about 2016 being the year of geothermal energy in Mexico looking at CFE, current development and private sector involvement.

A recent article in a Mexican publication talks about 2016 being the year of geothermal energy in Mexico.

Today, Mexico is number four of the countries with the largest installed geothermal power generation capacity with (1,058 MW, the publication talks about 958 MW), representing around 7% of total installed capacity worldwide.

According o the International Energy Agency (IEA), geothermal power production is projected to grow 27.9% globally by 2035.

Commercial geothermal power generation started in 1913 in Italy and Mexico started its first geothermal power plant in 1973. Today Mexico ranks only behind the United States 3,342 MW), the Philippines 1,968 MW, and Indonesia  with 1,339 thousand MW.

In Mexico, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has been in charge of geothermal development and operation and its installed capacity represents nearly 2% of total electricity capacity. In recent years it has grown significantly; however, for 2016 the strong participation of the private sector in generating this energy is emerging.

According to estimates for renewable energy technologies of the Ministry of Energy, among the biggest advantages of geothermal energy is its low cost of generation technology, which averages about $52 per MWh, compared to $280 for large-scale solar or $ 100 per MWh for offshore wind and $131 for biomass.

However geothermal energy has not reached its maximum utilization in Mexico, mostly due to the country being an oil nation.

“The growth was flat in terms of the exploitation of these systems; but the high availability of resources that we currently have in Mexico somehow gives opening to increase in the future we so very significant is currently installed capacity, “says Santoyo Edgar Gutierrez, researcher at the Institute of Renewable Energy of UNAM.

So far the CFE has developed and operated four geothermal fields in the country: Cerro Prieto, Baja California; The Azufres in Michoacan; The Chimneys, in Puebla, and Las Tres Virgenes, Baja California Sur. All the public electricity service.

He has also identified another field: Cerritos Colorados, in Jalisco. Although there are no plants in operation, several wells drilled with 75 MW potential assessed.

In 2014, the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) issued the first two permits for geothermal power generation, whose projects are located in Nayarit.

One corresponds to the company Mexxus Drilling International, specializing in geothermal drilling company, it was associated with the Icelandic Reykjavik Geothermal to form Mexxus RG.

The second was for Dragon Group, 100% Mexican company, which takes about four years studying in the Dome of San Pedro geothermal project in Nayarit.

Last November, for the first time in history, the Energy Secretariat (SE) awarded the first 30-year concession to operate a field in Nayarit Geotérmica para el Desarrollo (Geothermal Development Company), a subsidiary of Dragon Group, part of Group Salinas; this as part of the strategy to develop the private sector geothermal resources are there in the country.

Energy Secretary Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, explained that the initial investment for the project is around 2,600 million pesos ($150 million).

According to Jose Pablo Fernandez, director of Geothermal Development, the project-based steam generation will begin operations in the summer of 2016, in a first phase with capacity to generate 25 MW.

Meanwhile Roberto Ramirez de la Parra, director general of the Conagua, explained that the concession includes the drilling of 18 wells operating and two more for the reinjection of water at a depth of about three thousand five hundred meters.

The permit granted by the CRE is for power generation for self-supply to customers principally Grupo Salinas, along with municipal and state governments of Veracruz, Guanajuato, Queretaro and the State of Mexico, but the flexible regime that gave the energy reform will make Group Dragon migrate analyze energy market next year, says the group itself.

Edgar Santoyo, researcher at the Institute for Renewable Energy of UNAM, notes that in recent years the government, particularly the SE, has given impetus to exploit renewable energy and to reach 35% in 2024 in the country’s energy portfolio.

“In recent years, through the creation of the Mexican Center for Innovation in Geothermal Energy (Cemie-Geo) has given impetus to research and try to link academia with industry is critical to grow the installed capacity, “he says.

Finally, Santoyo points out that the last action that is also very important to note is the training of human resources, ie training of Mexican talent that will allow in the coming years will give continuity to all these tasks to master technologies and take a much larger contribution to the country’s energy portfolio.

“In the UNAM we work in different training programs and postgraduate careers aimed at all branches of renewable energies. Our country today is very committed to these great tasks of training highly skilled professionals, that in the future will allow meeting these large markets that are perceived to come in the short and medium term to promote these technologies, “he concludes.

Source: VertigoPolitico