Solar panels at the largest solar plant in Latin America in Puero Peñasco, Mexico. Photo by RAQUEL CUNHA/AFP via || Getty Images
BY SHARON UDASIN || The Hill
Residents of the U.S. Southwest could one day power their homes with solar energy generated across the border — if a multi-pronged plan from the Mexican government comes to fruition.
A 120-megawatt capacity photovoltaic plant in the Sonoran seaside city of Puerto Peñasco already began feeding the national grid last month, while another 300 megawatts are expected to be online next year.
“Who could have told me that a state like Sonora, a net importer of energy that has historically been a net importer, now has the potential to be an energy-exporting state?” Sonora Gov. Alfonso Durazo asked at a recent sustainable energy forum.
Durazo’s remark underscores the ambition behind the project.
The domestic output is just the first step in an extensive $48 billion plan envisioned by Mexico’s leaders, who have their sights set not only on neighboring Baja California, but also potentially on California and Arizona.
Yet deep questions remain, including who exactly is footing the bill for the project and whether the U.S. will be involved with the financing.
‘First of its kind in Mexico’
Mexican officials hailed the Puerto Peñasco facility for its future ability to produce up to 1,000 megawatts of clean energy, alongside 192 megawatts in battery storage at an inaugural event held by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in February.
“It will be the first of its kind in Mexico, the largest in all of America due to its generation capacity and fifth worldwide when considering the storage system,” a statement from Mexico’s state energy firm, the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), said following the inauguration.
Owned and operated by the CFE, the Puerto Peñasco plant is the first tangible product of a sustainable energy initiative known as the “Sonora Plan.”
The expansive federal program involves the construction of five massive photovoltaic solar facilities, new transmission lines and a lithium mining venture — all in the northern Mexican state of Sonora.
The project’s first mission is to provide solar power to “the national electricity system where everything is interconnected,” David Figueroa, Sonora’s state government representative in Arizona, told The Hill.