Sempra wind project approved by Mexican agency

Friday, August 20, 2010 at noon
John Gibbins / Union-Tribune

Mexican environmental officials have given their blessing to a massive wind farm to be built by San Diego-based Sempra Energy for the U.S. market.

"This permit marks a major milestone for the project," said Scott Crider, a spokesman for Sempra Generation, the subsidiary developing the wind farm.

"While we're pleased with the progress we've made so far, there's still a lot of work ahead of us," Crider said.

A power line connecting the project to a proposed substation in San Diego County still needs approval from the U.S. government and county officials.

In Mexico, the project needs approval from local officials and the Mexican energy commission.

And the project won't be built until Sempra finds a utility to buy the power. Sempra owns San Diego Gas & Electric, but its generation arm sells power to other utilities as well.

"We will not move forward with the project without having a contract in place," he said.

If everything goes as expected, the much-delayed project will be built in late 2012, he said.

The first phase of the wind farm, to be built in Ejido Jacume, just south of Jacumba, is to provide about 100 to 125 megawatts. Later phases stretching for 100 miles have the prospect of increasing that amount tenfold.

Baja has become a magnet for wind developers hoping to sell to California utilities which are required to reduce their reliance on fossil fueled plants.

In approving the project last month, the Mexican environmental ministry, Semarnat, placed a variety of conditions before it would issue a construction permit, Crider said.

Sempra has to monitor how construction and operation will affect birds, bats and plants, take steps to minimize harm and report on how it's doing, he said. ... pra-wind-/