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UEP Penonomé II

The Laudato Si wind farm in Penonomé is the country’s most ambitious such project to date and the largest of its kind in the region. The first phase of the […]

The Laudato Si wind farm in Penonomé is the country’s most ambitious such project to date and the largest of its kind in the region. The first phase of the wind farm, built in 2013, consists of 22 turbines and 55 MW of installed capacity which is operated by Unión Eólica Panameña (UEP) I, a special purpose vehicle owned by China-based firm Goldwind.

The second and third phases will add an additional 215 MW of capacity, and are due to be inaugurated in April 2016. This project represents a $436 million investment and is owned by UEP Penonomé II, a subsidiary of InterEnergy Holdings, whose portfolio consists of energy projects across the region, including wind farms in Jamaica, Chile, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. UEP Penonomé II also recently acquired a majority stake in Panama’s Pedregal Power Plant. UEP Penonomé II has been generating electricity since February 1, 2015 and was able to supply 5% of Panama’s electricity needs last year and hopes to supply 8% in 2016.
Goldwind is supplying and installing a total of 86 2.5 MW permanent magnet direct-drive (PMDD) turbines for the UEP Penonomé II project. The turbines are subject to stringent regulations set forth by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which has provided $330 million in funding for the project. As of March 2016, 79 wind turbines have been installed.

The 18,500ha Laudato Si wind farm is divided into four phases and will eventually generate a total of 337.5 MW from 135 wind turbine generators, all supplied by Goldwind. Construction of Phase 4 of the project, which will add 68 MW of installed capacity, has yet to be awarded but is set to commence in 2016. The wind farm is expected to be fully completed in 2018.

The wind farm is located in Penonomé, the capital of the Coclé province along the PanAmerican Highway, approximately 110km southeast of Panama City.

Speaking on the choice of location, Jamilette Guerrero, General Manager of UEP Penonomé II, highlighted the availability of wind resources, the road connectivity that facilitated bringing in and setting up the turbines, and compatibility with the surrounding environment. “The climatic conditions here were great because there is a lot of wind, but it is controlled and continuous. In addition, it is great because it is an area that has a lot of rice fields, and that is something that is very compatible with operating a wind farm.“

The project has been well received by locals and the wider community. According to a national survey conducted by the National Secretariat of Energy, it is the energy project that is best perceived. In terms of engagement with the local community, Guerrero explained, “From the beginning, our big emphasis has been on getting the local communities to participate and feel part of the wind farm. We meet with them every three months so they can raise any concerns they have. But, there is really no negative impact.“ In addition, she highlights the site’s potential as a tourist attraction

The UEP Penonomé II project is expected to eliminate over 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions and save 900,000 barrels of oil per year when completed. Panama’s current energy matrix is comprised of roughly 55% hydro and 30% thermal (including fossil fuels), with the rest of the energy supply coming from wind and solar generation. An advantage of Panama’s energy mix is the inverse correlation between the different sources — in the dry summer months, Panama’s energy demands are met by thermal and wind power; in the rainy season, energy generation shifts to hydropower. However, the country’s recent experience of dry climatic conditions caused by the weather patterns of El Niño raise Panama’s consciousness regarding the need to decrease its reliance on hydroelectric generation to meet its energy needs, and further highlights the importance of the project from both an environmental an energy security perspective. The project contributes to the goals of the National Plan for Energy by creating more renewable energy that can be generated during the dry season.

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