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CEL Plans El Salvador's First Wind, Solar Power Plants

Comision Ejecutiva Hidroelectrica del Rio Lempa, El Salvador’s state-owned utility, is planning the nation’s first utility-scale solar and wind projects to diversify its energy mix.

CEL, as the company is known, will auction development rights for a 14.2-megawatt solar farm in 2013 and for a 42-megawatt wind farm the following year, Ramon Moreno, a spokesman for the San Salvador-based utility, said today in an e-mail.

A shortage of new sites for large hydroelectric dams in El Salvador prompted CEL to consider alternative sources of electricity, Moreno said. The country has no large wind or solar projects connected to its power grid now.

“Wind and solar energies offer a good potential and allow a way to diversify the electric generation mix in the country,” Moreno said.

CEL is seeking a consulting company to draft auction documents for the solar farm, which will be financed by KfW Bankengruppe, Germany’s state development bank, he said. It’s expected to go into operation in 2014.

The wind project in the northern city of Metapan will cost about $110 million and is expected to start producing power in 2015, he said.

CEL, which operated four hydroelectric dams with 472 megawatts of generation capacity in 2009, is still deciding whether it will own the projects or sign long-term contracts to buy the electricity they produce, he said.

El Salvador generated about 70 percent of its electricity from oil and hydroelectric dams in 2009, according to the International Energy Agency’s website.

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