Photo credit: Ameresco Biomass Cogeneration Facility at SRS by Savannah River Site
Despite Mexico’s potential oil boom in the light of its latest energy reforms and the newly approved Hydrocarbons Transboundary Agreement with the U.S., the country remains invested in its alternative energy resources. Currently, only 7% of Mexico’s energy is from renewable sources. Biomass is in the lead with 3.8%, followed by Geothermal at 1.6% and Hydropower at 1.4%. Finally, solar and wind energy sources are 0.1%.
In 2012, the Mexico Ministry of Energy (SENER) published a report titled Prospects for Renewable Energy 2012-2016. In it, SENER highlights that Mexico had issued over 50 permits in 2012 for generating power from agricultural residue. The report also showed Mexico’s high potential for landfill gas production with approximately 28.2 million tons of solid waste dumped in landfills, of which 53% is organic. Taking into consideration that 10 permits offered a capacity of 44.76 MW, SENER estimates that Mexico’s 186 landfills can generate between 652 and 912 MW.
Power generated from livestock waste also shows great potential. The 327 anaerobic digesters the Mexican government approved between 2008 and 2012 have successfully processed a variety of waste materials, including pig manure collected from pig farms, dairies and feedlots. Pig manure alone has the potential of generating 246-492 MW.
Complementing the findings of the report is a study initiated by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to evaluate the sources of biomass in Mexico and determine their potential. According to the study, the capacity of biomass generation can reach 1.5 GW in 2020, which is a substantial rise from the 550 MW produced in 2012. The sources of the 1.5 GW are predicted to be agricultural residuals (950 MW), livestock waste (278 MW), urban landfills (200 MW), and forestry residuals (87 MW). By embracing its biomass potential alone and generating at least 1 GW by 2020, Mexico will be able to add USD 37.5 billion to its GDP, generate 31,000 jobs, and cut down its CO2 emissions by 5 Mt.
Biomass aside, geothermal energy in Mexico offers great energy potential. Ranking fourth worldwide, Mexico’s geothermal power generation is estimated at 7560 MW, of which three quarters is produced at the Cerro Prieto plant in Baja California. Mexico’s 72 operating hydropower stations also contribute highly at 11,603 MW while those under construction promise to add 136 MW. Experts haves identified over 100 possible sites which the government will explore when funds and labor are available.
Despite getting attention much later, solar energy in Mexico is expected to thrive, as the county is one of the top five countries to invest in. By 2013, 33 MW of solar energy was being produced while 39.1 MW was expected from facilities under construction. As for wind energy, the sector remains underdeveloped. Despite offering a potential of 71,000 MW, only 1.7% of it is in use. In 2013, in operation facilities produced 1214 MW while those under construction promised to add 2069 MW.
With the current world reserve/production ratio estimated at 54.2 years for oil, Mexico appears to be set to cover its energy needs in the future.