Mexico isthmus attracts wind rush

E&E • Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012

One of the world’s windiest spots — the Isthmus of Tehuantapec in Mexico — is attracting a “wind rush” as alternative energy companies are rushing to acquire land there for wind farms.

The isthmus is so windy that, at times, it is powerful enough to prop up a person who is leaning against it. Gales roar through at an average of 19 mph.

Mexico has wind potential of 71 gigawatts, which exceeds the nation’s current installed electrical-generation capacity. The nation is on track to double its energy production from solar and wind to 7.6 percent this year.

On the isthmus, wind power generation is currently about 2,500 megawatts, enough to power 870,000 U.S. homes.

Most land ownership in the area is communal and held by the Zapotec indigenous group, so leasing the land to developers is a collective decision, represented by community leaders. At the individual level, however, some feel cheated when they realize the wind turbines are 15 to 20 stories tall and it is not possible to farm around the structures.

Others say they had to sell the land cheaply and that community leaders benefited more from the deals.

“The first guy or two that bites gets [$8] per square meter. That’s a hundred times better contract than the other people,” said Ben Cokelet, founder of the Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research. “But the 98 percent of farmers who sign afterwards sign on for rock-bottom prices. Those one or two people who bite — they don’t bite because they’re lucky. They bite because they know someone. And their job … is to sell it to all their neighbors” (Erik Vance, Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 26).