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Sempra Infrastructure, a subsidiary of the San Diego-based North American energy giant Sempra, has completed an expansion of a wind energy facility in Baja California and recently signed a memo with the state-owned electric utility in Mexico that may lead to the development of three major natural gas projects in that country.

The Energía Sierra Juárez wind farm in Tecate interconnects with the Southwest Powerlink at San Diego Gas & Electric’s East County substation via a cross-border transmission line.

Phase II of the facility’s expansion effort just wrapped up, adding 26 turbines to the plant’s footprint and boosting its incremental capacity from 155 megawatts to 263 megawatts. The increase is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of more than 180,000 homes and the company says it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 170,000 tons of CO2 per year.

Energía Sierra Juárez is located in an area considered one of the most promising on the North American West Coast for wind energy production.

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“This is a very important project because it is the first cross-border renewable energy project between Mexico and the United States,” said Tania Ortiz Mena, Sempra Infrastructure Group President for Clean Power and Energy Networks. “I think it’s very important evidence how Mexico’s very rich renewable resources can be used to benefit the border region and to benefit the communities who are developing this project.”

Energía Sierra Juárez holds lease agreements with landowners who receive payments based on the company’s revenue from electricity sales of the facility.

Sempra Infrastructure also operates the Ventika wind farm in the state of Nueva Léon. With 84 turbines and an installed capacity of 252 megawatts, Ventika is one of the largest wind generation facilities in Latin America.

The wind expansion announcement comes on the heels of Sempra Infrastructure recently signing a memorandum of understanding with Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission, known as CFE.

The memo, which is non-binding, calls for potential development of a number of natural gas projects, including a liquefied natural gas, or LNG, export facility in Topolobampo, a port city on the Gulf of California in the state of Sinaloa.

Called Vista Pacifico LNG, the project would take natural gas from the Permian Basin in the U.S. and bring it into the facility via two pipelines. The LNG could then be shipped directly across the Sea of Cortez to the city of La Paz, where it could be converted back into a useable, gaseous state at a proposed regasification plant and then be used by customers in Baja California Sur.

Mexico could also export excess LNG to markets in Asia, where countries like China, Japan and South Korea are interested in replacing coal with natural gas.

Vista Pacifio LNG still needs to receive an additional permit from the U.S Department of Energy as well as permits from the Mexican government.

“I think (the memorandum) is a very important step for this particular fact that we are working hand-in-hand with CFE to push the project forward,” Ortiz Mena said.

The memo also mentions a possible resumption of service on a natural gas pipeline that has been offline for more than four years.

The location where a section of the Sempra gas pipeline was extracted by the Yaqui tribe

The location where a section of the Sempra gas pipeline was extracted by the Yaqui tribe in the village of Loma de Bacum in Mexico in December 2017.

(Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In August 2017, members of an indigenous group in the state of Sonora hopped on a backhoe and tore out a 25-foot chunk of the Guaymas-El Oro pipeline that transports natural gas from Arizona to Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Some of the members of the Yaqui tribe in the village of Loma de Bácum said a nine-mile stretch of the line running through their farmland did not receive their approval.

A proposal to reroute the line is being discussed to end the impasse.

“CFE is negotiating with the Yaqui community so that we can go through that territory and restore operations from the pipeline,” Ortiz Mena said.

The memo between Sempra Infrastructure and CFE comes as a sharp contrast to concerns expressed by U.S. trade officials over changes desired by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Long a critic of earlier reform measures aimed at bringing in foreign investment to Mexico’s energy sector, López Obrador has proposed legislation to strengthen state control of the power market by enhancing CFE’s sway. Critics say the rollbacks could stifle renewable energy projects and violate Mexico’s commitments under the new trade deal signed by Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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