Having reached commercial operations last April, the 252 MW Ventika Wind Power Complex currently stands as the largest onshore wind farm in Mexico and one of the largest in Latin America.
Located in Nuevo Leon, approximately 35 miles from the U.S. border, the $640 million Ventika wind project comprises two adjacent wind facilities – Ventika I and Ventika II – and features 84 AW116/3000 wind turbines manufactured with Nordex/Acciona Windpower technology, each with a rotor diameter of 116 meters and a hub height of 120 meters.
Built by Acciona Energy, project construction began in the first quarter of 2014 under an engineering, procurement and construction contract for a group of investors, including Blackstone Energy Partners, Fisterra Energy and building materials company Cemex. Per the agreement, Acciona Energy will be responsible for the wind power complex’s operation and maintenance for 20 years from its start-up date.
Roger Martin Gonzalez Lau, vice president of energy for Cemex, says that the project site, located on all privately owned land, was selected for its remarkably good wind resource, with no major biodiversity, population or economic activity in the area.
Project construction, which employed up to 850 people during peak activity periods, required more than 388 kilometers of underground transmission cables and 54 kilometers of access tracks to the turbines.
As for the output, Ventika has long-term power purchase agreements in place with several private off-takers, including Cemex, Fiat-Chrysler, Femsa-OXXO, Tecnologico de Monterrey and DeAcero.
Although Ventika’s size is certainly of interest – with an estimated output of 1,000 GWh per year, covering approximately 630,000 homes – the most noteworthy aspect of this project may actually be how it was built.
The majority of wind turbines in the industry today are built on rolled steel towers, but for the first time in the Mexican wind power sector, Ventika’s developers elected to use concrete towers instead.
In March 2015, Acciona Windpower, the turbine manufacturing subsidiary of Acciona Energy, inaugurated a manufacturing plant near Monterrey to produce the concrete segments for the wind turbine towers in Ventika I and Ventika II – a move that created approximately 300 direct jobs and more than 1,500 indirect jobs.
By using concrete rather than the traditional steel, project developers are able to build taller towers, which, in turn, means more wind.
Cemex’s Lau cites the tall hub height as the chief reason for the tower innovation, calling concrete “a more efficient and economic tower technology for turbines installed at a hub height of 120 meters.”
Miguel Angel Alonso, Mexico director for Acciona Energy, agrees but says that the advantages of building turbine towers with concrete can extend much further.
“Choosing between steel or concrete depends directly on the supply chain and the market conditions of each project,” he elaborates.
“In the case of Ventika, concrete towers were a more efficient option due to the fact that 1) market conditions for concrete were better than steel, 2) it was possible to build a concrete tower manufacturing plant near the location of the project, and 3) Cemex was one of the developers, which generated synergies for concrete production,” Alonso says.
“In addition, using concrete makes transportation simpler for tall towers like these because the concrete towers can be transported in smaller parts,” he continues.
If that weren’t enough, concrete towers also provide sustainability benefits.
“The production of concrete towers involves less energy consumption, so we can consider them more sustainable than steel,” Alonso says. “Ventika is the only carbon-neutral project built in Mexico, and Acciona was certified for achieving this milestone.”
In November 2015, Cemex recognized Acciona Energy for its work on the Ventika power complex with the Award for Development of Industrial Works and the Special Award for Innovation in Construction Processes and Techniques.
Cemex Works Awards recognize building projects by diversity in technical, conceptual and aesthetic solutions applied to design, use or construction. According to the company, 637 projects in total were submitted that year for the Mexico edition.
Checking all the boxes, the Ventika project has also been met with support and enthusiasm from the landowners and the nearby community – and also aligns with the interests of the country. All in all, the project is expected to help Mexico achieve its target of 35% renewable energy by 2025.
Yet, amid all the glowing praise, Ventika still had its fair share of challenges – namely, the construction logistics regarding transportation and availability of cranes for turbine erection.
“Like every great project, there were difficulties and obstacles,” says Alonso. “For example, just as an anecdote, we lost the main crane due to a very serious mechanical fault. To go ahead, we financed the company that was supplying the cranes to buy a new main crane that was available in Germany. Such problems may happen in big projects like this one.”
Construction moved forward and, in fact, was completed ahead of schedule.
Last fall, Ventika’s investor group made plans to sell the wind power complex to IEnova, a division of Sempra that develops, builds and operates energy infrastructure in Mexico.
Under the contract, IEnova agreed to acquire 100% of the Ventika I and II wind farms in an $852 million total transaction.
Specifically, the company arranged to pay $375 million to Blackstone Energy Partners, Fisterra Energy and other minority shareholders for the wind complex, in addition to assuming approximately $477 million in project financing debt.
Now enhancing IEnova’s renewables portfolio as intended, the Ventika Wind Power Complex continues to stand tall, delivering on its promise to advance the Mexican wind sector and move the needle on energy reform.