Venezuelans paying price for failure of wind farm project a decade ago
By Sarai Coscojuela and Henry Chirinos
Caracas/Maracaibo, Apr 18 (EFE).- Venezuela made its first attempt to generate renewable energy more than a decade ago when it embarked on the construction of a wind farm in Guajira, a municipality in the western state of Zulia.
But that 10 GW capacity project barely got off the ground, leaving local residents abandoned and currently forced to endure up to 12 hours a day without electricity service.
Construction of the wind farm began in the early 2010s through a partnership with Argentina, Alejandro Lopez Gonzalez, an electrical engineer and renewable energy specialist, told Efe.
He said, however, that the project failed to progress beyond the initial stage and is currently “totally inoperative.”
“It should be noted that there are 10 phases and only phase 1A was completed, and that was around the year 2012,” Lopez Gonzalez said, adding that due to a lack of interconnection infrastructure and substations no renewable energy was fed into the electrical grid.
Transparencia Venezuela, a non-governmental organization, says the Venezuelan government approved $225 million in funding to execute that wind-energy project, which was to have begun in February 2011 and been completed in 2013.
In that latter year, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited the project and approved phase 1B, which was to have entailed the construction of three-dozen 2.1 MW wind turbines, the Corpoelec state power corporation said.
In 2018, then Electrical Energy Minister Luis Motta Dominguez said 80 percent of the wind farm’s “strategic material” had been the “target of vandalism.”
During a visit to the installations, Efe observed that they have been abandoned and that due to the lack of a security presence nearly all of the equipment has been stolen or dismantled.
The wind turbines are still standing, although the elevators and escalators are gone and some of the blades have fallen to the ground.
The inhabitants of Guajira municipality, mostly indigenous people from the Wayuu community, have suffered daily blackouts and at times are without electricity for days.
Efe confirmed that some sectors are hit by two outages per day of approximately six hours each.
Other parts of the country suffer similar power shortfalls, according to data provided to Efe in early April by the Committee of People Affected by Blackouts.
That NGO said Venezuela registered 6,043 power outages during all of last month, 1,984 more than in February. Zulia was the hardest-hit state with 665 outages.
Lopez Gonzalez noted that even though only phase 1A of the wind farm was completed, or just 5 percent of the project, that would have been enough to meet the Guajira municipality’s electricity needs.
The final goal had been for the wind farm to generate some 10 GW of electricity, which Lopez Gonzalez said could have met “peak demand” throughout the country and served as a compliment to the Simon Bolivar hydroelectric power station (also known as the Guri hydroelectric power plant), which supplies the majority of Venezuela’s electricity.
He added that for Venezuela to achieve its renewable energy potential it will need legislation focused on technical aspects, as well as incentives for investment and awareness-raising campaigns. EFE