Central America is blessed with geothermal resources and the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua are putting big hopes for geothermal helping to decrease oil dependency for their energy supply.
A recent article looks at the Central America energy sector and the energy reforms in the 1980s and 1990s that left a rather inefficient energy sector in the region.
Back in 2005, leaders from the region called a state of alert regarding the energy supply for their countries. The governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua have since that time sought to increase the share of renewable energy in their energy supply portfolios.
Central America is situated on a geological unique position with volcanic activities and large geothermal potential. Conservative estimates see a potential of 2,580 MW, but it is likely much more than that.
The article referred to here, describes the energy markets in the different countries.
Guatemala already looked at geothermal energy as an energy option in 1972 with a Japanese international development agency looking at the geothermal potential of the country.
Today the country has high hopes of meeting more than half of its energy demand with geothermal energy by 2022. The potential geothermal power generation capacity is estimated between 800 and 4,000 MW. Realistically 1,000 MW are seen as possible, which would meet about 20 percent of the country’s energy demand.
Guatemala today has two geothermal sites producing power, both are run by Ormat Technologies. The plant Zunil with 24 MW installed capacity and erected in 1999 and Amatitlán built in 2007 with 20 MW capacity. There are further sites seen as prospects, among them San Marcos, Moyuto, Totonicapán and Tecuamburro. U.S./ Canadian geothermal developer U.S. Geothermal is developing its El Ceibello project in the country.
In El Salvador exploration already began in 1954 until the 1970s, but then postponed by the civil war in the country into the early 1990s.
In 1996, El Salvador saw the restructuring of the energy sector with a focus on geothermal energy. Today 24% of the country’s energy supply is provided by geothermal. Today there are 310 MW of capacity installed with a potential future capacity at 2,210 MW.
There are two geothermal power plants in the country run by LaGeo, a JV of the El Salvadoran government and Italian Enel. The site at Ahuachapán has an installed capacity of 95 MW and the Berlín site 109 MW. There are additional prospects at Cuyanausal, San Vicente and Chinameca.
In Nicaragua, 70 percent of energy demand is fueled by imported oil. There are though efforts in place to replace 20 percent of the oil dependency with renewable energy sources. Hydro power is seen as crucial, but geothermal is seen as an important cornerstone in the country’s energy supply given its base-load capacity.
Today, Nicaragua has two geothermal power plants, Momotombo and San Jacinto-Tizate. Momotombo is expected to have a capacity of 77 MW, but currently produces only 28 MW.
San Jacinto-Tizate has an installed capacity of 46 MW but a potential of 77 MW. The plant is owned and run by Polaris Geothermal, part of Ram Power.
LaGeo is exploring sites in El Hoyo-Monte Galan and Mangua Chitepe, with an expectation of 45 MW for each site.
For the region geothermal provides – so the article – a great potential for the region’s environment and regional economy. It would decrease the oil dependency of the region and secure energy supply from local sources.
This though has to go hand in hand with local communities, environmental measures and protection.
Source: Eurasia Review