Nicaragua and its neighboring countries are continuing to develop their renewable energy sectors, with an eye not only towards domestic markets but also regional customers. Following the completion in 2013 of the Central American Electrical Interconnection System (SIEPAC) transmission line, Nicaragua’s grid is now interconnected with those of Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala (with the prospect of Mexico, Colombia and Belize joining as well). The newly-formed Central American Regional Electricity Market (MER) acts as a single, integrated transnational market for the member countries. Renewable energy producers in the region can now benefit from the ability to sell into SIEPAC in addition to their regional customers.
In May I had the privilege of traveling to Nicaragua with my colleagues Paul Bork and Adam Wade to meet with our client Blue Power & Energy, S.A. and to tour the 40 MW La Fé-San Martín wind park. The visit was a unique opportunity for the Foley team that represented Blue Power in securing the project financing for the park from a consortium of international lenders in 2011 to see firsthand the results of our client’s efforts as the park is now up and running, having achieved commercial operation in late 2013.
Our gracious hosts, Joaquín Cuadra, former commander-in-chief of the Nicaraguan armed forces and founding principal of Blue Power, and Ivania Guzmán and César Arostegui of Guzmán, Arostegui y Asociados, Blue Power’s Nicaragua counsel, escorted us on a guided tour of the 22-turbine facility located in Rivas, approximately 65 miles south of Managua on the Isthmus of Rivas between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific:
The plant manager began our visit with an informative, detailed presentation which spanned from the initial planning and design for La Fe-San Martín through all phases of construction to the present operation and output projections of the park.
As impressive as Blue Power’s progress had seemed from Boston, the presentation and our tour of the park only heightened our appreciation of the challenges faced in bringing the park to operation. We learned how each of the Vestas 1.8 MW turbines had to be shipped in segments to the port of Corinto, some 150 miles to the north, and transported overnight on the long road to Rivas due to traffic concerns and physical constraints (a police escort was required to clear electrical wires crossing the road).
Following the presentation we were taken on a guided tour of the impressive facility:
Rivas was chosen as the site for La Fé – San Martín because of the exceptional wind resources concentrated in the Isthmus of Rivas (following the park’s commissioning, several other wind parks have been constructed in neighboring properties).
If Blue Power’s performance is any indication, the renewable energy sector in Central America looks to be full of potential.