Mexico’s solar and nuclear plans begin to take shape

Mexican public utility CFE aims to advance plans to build alternative energy sources, including a nuclear plant and a large solar generator.

During her latest appearance before congress, energy minister Rocío Nahle said CFE and the administration were working to start construction on the Puerto Peñasco solar park in Sonora state in 2022.

The project has been highly controversial, as experts doubted the company’s capacity to undertake the permitting process fast enough to meet the expected end-2023 delivery deadline.

But CFE and Sonora state are only missing the detailed engineering work for the project’s 150MW first stage while everything else is ready for deployment, Nahle said. Originally, it was planned to contract construction to the private sector, but it is now unclear how the project will be financed or built.

A tender announced in July by governor Alfonso Durazo has failed to materialize. According to Durazo, at least 9bn pesos (US$428mn) will be directly invested by CFE.

The project was originally planned to involve a 1GW, US$1.68bn unit whose development was helmed by Sonora state. According to Nahle, it is now an initially 150MW solar park for Sonora, to which 500MW will be added later, enabling partial supply to neighboring Baja California state.

Regarding nuclear energy, Nahle highlighted the energy ministry and nuclear research institute ININ are studying a new generation unit, either at the existing 682MW Laguna Verde plant in Veracruz or at a new location in Sonora.

After the location has been determined, the ministry would have to conduct basic engineering research for a project that could take six or seven years to build, Nahle said.

These projects would form part of a CFE investment plan that includes building six combined-cycle units, renewing construction of the Guaymas-El Oro and Tuxpan-Tula pipelines (175km in total), a US$4.85bn, longer-term initiative to grow nuclear, hydroelectric, wind and solar capacity, and a US$4.46bn overhaul of the company's transmission capacity.

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