January 31 (Renewables Now) - Colombia's national mining and energy planning unit UPME has issued connection approval to more than 120 non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) projects outside of the auction framework, which could potentially result in roughly 7,700 MW of new installed capacity.
These figures were provided by the Colombian minister of mining and energy, Maria Fernanda Suarez, who at a recent forum in Bogota highlighted the positive economic impact of renewables on the country's economic growth.
Solar potential attracted most of the interest, with the UPME approving connection to 107 projects for 5,177 MW. Wind power projects, 18 in total, secured rights for 2,531 MW, while biomass will potentially yield 48 MW across four projects, according to Suarez.
All this new capacity is expected to come on top of 2,500 MW of renewables that Colombia will accumulate by 2022 thanks to its two power auctions held in 2019.
The department of La Guajira stands out for its potential for regional growth. According to minister Suarez, wind speed there averages 9 metres per second (20.1 miles per hour) at a height of 80 metres (262.5 ft). It is therefore not surprising that all of the wind farms, a total of 1,285 MW of capacity, that were assigned power purchase agreements (PPAs) in the October auction round will be located in La Guajira.
While new renewables will bring enormous economic benefits, Suarez pointed to challenges that are awaiting La Guajira as more than 300 wind turbines pass through this Caribbean region. The country will have to address issues with logistics and infrastructure, strengthen road and ports, so that the intended energy transition can bear economic fruit.