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Mexico turns to wind for power

MEXICO officially opened one of the world's largest wind farm projects on Thursday as the nation looks for alternative energy, in part to compensate for falling oil production.

Mexico is trying to exploit its rich wind and solar potential after relying almost exclusively on petroleum for decades. With oil production down by 9.2 percent in 2008, Mexico is now turning to foreign, mainly Spanish, companies to tap its renewable riches.

"If we don't do something about this problem of climate change it probably could become - I'm sure it already is - one of the biggest threats to humanity," said President Felipe Calderon at the ceremony attended by about 1,000 residents.

The new US$550 million project is in a region so breezy that the main town is named La Ventosa, or "Windy." It's on the narrow isthmus between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, where winds blow at 25 to 36 kilometers per hour, a near-ideal rate for turbines.

Spanish energy company Acciona Energia says the 2,500-hectare farm should generate 250 megawatts of electricity with 167 turbines, 25 of which are already operating. The rest should be on line by the end of the year, making it the largest such project in Latin America.

The company said it will produce enough energy to power a city of 500,000 people, while reducing carbon monoxide emissions by 600,000 metric tons each year.

Mexico hopes to boost the nation's wind energy capacity, mainly at La Ventosa, to 5,000 megawatts - about 10 times its current output. Wind energy now accounts for less than 2 percent of electricity production.

But many local residents say they see few benefits and aren't being paid enough for use of their land. Several hundred protesters blocked a road to the site, holding a banner reading "no to the project."


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