Mexico is a sunny country. No flies on me, eh?! People use solar energy to heat water in their homes (we’ve benefited from many a solar heated shower), and occasionally to generate electricity – although the expense is beyond the budget of most.
As far as large scale renewable energy is concerned, there is little evidence of development (in the parts we have traveled through thus far, anyway).
President Calderon has promised to cut Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions by 5% during his six years in office (until 2012). He thinks the country should halve emissions by the year 2050. With a low-lying territory in the southeast and in parts of Baja California, Mexico is very vulnerable to rising sea levels, and must make an effort to reduce greenhouse gases if it wants others (particularly the USA) to follow suit. Renewable energy would seem a good starting point.
We have just passed through the isthmus of Mexico, a 130 miles wide funnel formed by two mountain ranges where wind from the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico blasts through to the Pacific. It is windy. There is a place called La Ventosa – ‘windy place’ – to prove it.
Here there is evidence of renewable energy development in a BIG way. Calderon wants to build 2,500 MW of wind power there before the end of 2012. There are already hundreds of wind turbines dotted across the flat, hot land. Plus, signs that more are being erected. A fantastic use of an incredible resource.
However, there seem to be problems. The turbines are being built on farmland, and the farmers are often given an incredibly bad deal by the foreign companies that bring the turbines. The land is often taken needlessly out of use for cultivation as people don’t understand that dual use is possible. It is easy to take advantage of those who have no idea of the profitability of electricity generation.
Also, apparently there are problems with abuse of the land. The companies not respecting the environment – building huge roads to enable transportation of the turbines, etc.
Obviously, renewable energy is a good thing. But you need regulations to protect the people and the environment from the negative side effects of foreign companies moving in to exploit the land’s resources. Much of the energy generated in the isthmus is apparently going to multi-national companies for greenwash rather than the local area. There is an interesting article about the issues in the isthmus here.
There are other experiments going on with large scale renewables that we heard of. In the deserts of northern Mexico the use of cactus for biomass is apparently being looked into. Cactus needs little water, and could be a good fuel to generate much needed electricity for farmers in remote areas. Again though, we were told that the opportunities are never open to local communities, only big companies that can afford to fund the projects. There is little in the way of funding at the smaller scale level – for the remote, rural communities that need it most.