With presidential elections inching ever closer in Uruguay, the candidates are plastering the capital city of Montevideo with campaign billboards promising a better life and a brighter future.

And while most of these adverts feature the requisite, Photoshopped images of the candidates with perfectly-coiffed hair and million-dollar smiles, the most powerful and effective billboard features a lone wind turbine spinning above the Uruguay countryside along with the simple caption, “The Winds Of Renovation Are Blowing.”

The billboard of note looks to the future, not with the hope of an undelivered campaign promise, but rather with the certainty of an energy independent future. With a diverse mix of wind, solar and biomass, Uruguay is on the path to becoming a net exporter of energy by 2016.

Total domestic and foreign investment in wind energy in Uruguay will reach US$2.8 billion by January 2016 when an estimated 550 wind turbines will be generating one-third of the country’s electricity…an impressive feat considering Uruguay only had one windmill in 2005 generating a lone megawatt at the national engineering university.

Just this week, the national electric utility, UTE, announced the construction of the Arias Wind Park Project, a US$170 million facility with 35 turbines in the southwestern Department of Flores. Arias joins a growing list of wind parks nationwide including Juan Pablo Terra in Artigas, Valentines in Treinta y Tres, Pampa in Tacuarembo and Brazil-backed Electrobras, also in Flores.

Uruguay is already covering 25% of domestic energy demand with the 12 wind parks that are operating nationwide, according to national Director of Energy Ramon Mendez. The country plans to have 1,300 Mw of installed wind capacity by 2016: 460 Mw from UTE and 890 Mw from private investment. (Full Story in Spanish)

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