Penonome (Panama), Aug 7 (IANS/EFE) Workers have started assembling the Penonome wind farm, the first alternative energy facility of its kind in Panama and the largest in Central America with more than 100 towers.
President Ricardo Martinelli and executives of Spanish-owned Union Eolica Panameña, or UEP, participated in a ceremony Monday to mark the start of the wind farm's assembly.
UEP is building the $440 million Penonome wind farm, which is expected to begin operating in the second half of 2014, generating between 6 percent and 7 percent of the energy required by the Panamanian market, officials said.
The wind farm will allow Panama to obtain "efficient and cheap energy", reducing the cost of living, Martinelli said.
"With the Penonome wind farm, we are going to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and hydroelectric energy," UEP director Rafael Perez Pire said.
Workers will be installing "two to three wind turbines per week", with a goal of putting up 88 towers by the end of this year, the executive said.
About 95 percent of the nearly 500 people hired to assemble the 90-meter towers are from the area around Penoneme, located about 150 km west of Panama City.
The wind farm will have 110 towers equipped with turbines on its 19,000 hectares.
Some 75 percent of Penonome's electricity generation will occur during the dry season - December to May - allowing the country to save water and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil.
The wind farm will have 220 MW of generating capacity, or twice the power output of similar facilities in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras, UEP said.
The wind farm will cut Panama's CO2 emissions by nearly 450,000 tonnes annually, UEP said.
Panama has an installed generating capacity of 1,426 MW, with hydroelectric power plants accounting for nearly half of electricity output and the rest coming from thermal power plants, government figures show.