Clean EnergyWind Energy
Wind energy is produced by converting the movement of air into mechanical energy, usually through the use of a turbine. Wind energy has often been the breakthrough renewable energy choice of many countries around the world. For decades, wind energy has seen enormous growth in project development and continues to make strides in efficiency and technological improvements that have pushed the boundaries where turbines are deployed. In recent years, wind power has seen increased attention with the lower cost of deployment in off-shore applications. Off-shore wind investments in northern Europe and East Asia has expanded the potential energy resources available in developed and developing economies alike and signals a bright future for wind energy development around the world.
Scale of Resource
While wind energy resources in Peru are modest, even compared to other countries in Latin America, the potential resource is enough to play a significant role in the country’s energy generation profile. By one estimate, Peru could install as much 22,000MW of wind energy capacity, of which only 240MW is currently in operation. Much of this potential exists as an off-shore resource.
Wind energy resources are most prominent along the costal north in the departments of Tumbes, Piura and La Libertad, as well as along the central-southern coast in the departments of Ica and Arequipa. The map below illustrates the availability of wind resources across the world, but take notice of the potential resource along the Peruvian coast. Some significant wind resources exist in interior departments but are framed by difficult terrain and lacking access to the necessary transportation and energy transmission infrastructure that is prevalent along the Pacific coast.
There is a fair amount of data detailing the available wind resource on-shore in Peru gathered by MINEM, Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines. A 2016 wind energy assessment indicated regions to target for future wind energy development as indicated in the map below (wind speeds at 100m hub height).
Vertical vs Horizontal turbines
Modern, large-scale wind energy development has been characterized by deployment of horizontal-axis turbines, or generators with the turbine’s axis parallel to the flow of the wind, and there are several good reasons for this. Most importantly, initial utility-scale projects that had utilized vertical-axis turbines, or generators with the turbine’s axis perpendicular to the flow of the wind, experienced much higher maintenance setbacks and costs relative to horizontal-axis turbines. This being the case, research and development in turbine design has focused in more recent years on improving the horizontal-axis turbine design.
However, vertical-axis turbines operate more efficiently in winds that are more turbulent and irregular and can generate power at hub heights much closer to the ground than horizontal-axis turbines. Also, vertical-axis turbines can harness wind energy from any direction, while horizontal-axis turbines must face the direction of the wind to reach the highest efficiencies, which requires additional on-board components. This means that for small-scale development, there is a role for vertical-axis turbines. But when deployed in regions with steady, consistent wind resources, horizontal-axis turbines have shown greater efficiency in energy generation compared to vertical-axis turbines.
Additionally, wind turbines create aerodynamic noise that can affect the surrounding environment and has led to complaints by residents that live near wind farms. Given the higher rotating speed of horizontal-axis turbines, especially large-scale turbines, aerodynamic noise is higher than for vertical-axis turbines. This is particularly important when siting a wind farm near to populated areas or in sensitive ecological settings.
In all, horizontal-axis turbines offer more efficient power generation and lower maintenance costs at larger scales, while vertical-axis turbines may be better suited for small-scale projects located in more densely-populated and ecologically-sensitive areas.
On-shore vs Off-shore
Primarily a function of the cost of construction and operation, on- and off-shore wind resources offer different advantages and disadvantages for development in Peru and around the region. While recent improvements in the cost of off-shore wind energy development (picture below: Block Island Wind Farm, Rhode Island, USA) has been impressive, on-shore development continues to be the most accessible option.
In short, the cost of construction and maintenance of on-shore wind energy systems is less than off-shore projects, but wind energy resources off-shore are stronger and steadier. This means that the long-term economic considerations of an off-shore project may win out over on-shore systems. Much of the consideration between these resources will rest on the capabilities of the project developer and the economic tolerances of the energy end-user.
Wind energy projects at smaller scales have continued to be challenged by difficult economics, but many applications can provide cost savings and emissions reductions for end-users, especially in areas where access to the electricity grid is lacking. Additionally, environmental restraints can make decentralized, small-scale wind a challenge in siting and maintenance.
As of July of 2017, Peru has 239.3MW of wind energy capacity installed and in operation from four individual sites. These include the Talara (Piura, 30MW), Marcona (Ica, 32.1), Cupisnique (La Libertad, 80MW), and Tres Hermanas (Ica/Arequipa, 97.2MW) wind farms. Combined, they produced more than 1.062 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity in 2016, or 2.1% of the country’s total electrical demand.
Across the region, Latin America has seen an explosion of wind energy development, particularly in Brazil and Mexico, with notable project development in Costa Rica, Panama, Chile and Uruguay. The map below is part of a study conducted by MSc in mid-2017 in partnership with Arequipa-based Energía Innovadora that looks at regional wind energy installed capacity against potential available wind resources. It’s easy to see that most countries are just beginning to realize their respective potentials.
There are several factors to consider when creating a plan to tap any source of power. Surrounding geography and the location of the resource you want to exploit are only part of the overall picture. When it comes to large-scale wind energy development, the accessibility to roads and transportation infrastructure is key to not only construction of a project, but also maintenance, repair and replacement of wind farm components. Additionally, to facilitate the most efficient route to market, energy transmission infrastructure should be nearby. And finally, it is important to consider no-go regions where the obstacles to wind farm siting are simply too difficult or altogether prohibited. To this end, as part of the study mentioned previously, MSc put together a map (below) of Peru that highlights the areas that should be the focus of future development in the country. The darker regions indicate availability of wind resources, access to nearby transportation and energy transmission infrastructure, and the grey zones indicate protected lands or areas otherwise off-limits to wind farm development. It is important to note that the study did not focus on off-shore resources, which remain completely undeveloped and boast the largest available wind resource.
Fully realized, wind energy could constitute a large portion of Peru’s energy mix and provide thousands of high-quality jobs in construction, maintenance and operation of wind farms.
 Wind energy potential in Peru: http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/knowledge/publications/134777/renewable-energy-in-latin-america-peru
 Current installed wind energy capacity: MINEM Perú – Anuario Estadístico de Electricidad 2016 http://www.minem.gob.pe/_estadistica.php?idSector=6&idEstadistica=11738
 Global Energy Network Institute: http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/library/renewable-energy-resources/world/sources_world/World_Wind_Lg_Map_files/World.Wind.Lg.jpg
 MINEM Perú – Atlas Eólico del Perú: http://www.minem.gob.pe/_publicacion.php?idSector=6&idPublicacion=537