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Steady growth, clear outlooks key to local manufacturing

Admin | 10.04.2012

Mexico's installed wind generation capacity surpassed 1GW in February, making it the second largest market in Latin America after Brazil's 1.6GW. Luring manufacturers to establish facilities in the burgeoning market will hinge on maintaining that growth.

"The most important thing is giving the investors an idea of the size of the market going forward. If you're convinced that there's a very high likelihood of, say, 1GW/y for the next dozen years or so, and some way for you to actually make those projects happen and sell your electricity and make a profit, companies would evaluate setting up a factory in Mexico. But signals need to be a bit clearer than they are right now," Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, told BNamericas.

Mexico's government says there is 71GW of wind generation potential considering plant capacity factors greater than 20%.

There is no magic number of generation build-out to attract manufacturing. South Africa's medium-size market of 400-450MW/y is likely to attract some manufacturing, Sawyer added.

US firm General Electric's commercial leader for Latin America and Western US, Rafael Alcalde-Navarro, told BNamericas the company has a global supply chain strategy and thus would require steady Mexican demand to justify a local facility.

"Developing 1GW/y for 10 years would help a lot to create a local industry. We supply thousands of turbines and have many options for components. In Mexico, we are going to evaluate the convenience of manufacturing not just for Mexican projects, but rather also for export. The authorities can make that much more attractive by creating a larger manufacturing industry," Alcalde-Navarro said.

An annual 1GW could push Spanish wind company Acciona to establish factories in-country, Miguel Ángel Alonso, director general of its local subsidiary, told BNamericas.

"But more than installing turbine factories, what should be championed is an industrial fabric to position Mexico as number one in the sector of companies related to component production and materials related to the wind sector," Alonso said.

Specific supply chain growth opportunities for Mexico include gearboxes, Brian Gaylord, an advisor at US consultancy MAKE, said in a presentation. There are only two original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with gearbox production facilities in the Americas, and the market for gearbox rebuild/repair is starting to boom as US turbines age.

Wind towers could also be a valuable niche. Steel producer AHMSA installed a new plate line at its Monclova factory, and the supplier's presence has attracted new investment in wind tower production. The local subsidiary of Trinity Industries, for example, signed multi-year contracts with AHMSA to produces 30-90m steel towers in-country.

Vientek, a JV of Japan's Mitsubishi and US firm TPI Composites, also manufactures blades in Ciudad Juárez for Mitsubishi.

Only one local firm, Potencia Industrial, manufactures generators for wind turbines, which have up to 2.6MW capacity for US firm Clipper, as well as its own small turbines.

Regarding nacelles and generators, Gaylord said the OEMs are unlikely to establish manufacturing facilities in Mexico, as they already have excess capacity in other focus markets.

Source: www.power-eng.com