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Loan, partnership propel Mexico wind farm

A new investment partner and development bank financing are pushing forward plans for a wind power plant in Mexico that delivers electricity to the California grid.

IEnova, the Mexico-based subsidiary of Sempra Energy, has sold a 50 percent interest in its Energía Sierra Juárez wind project to power generating firm InterGen. Sierra Juarez is engineered to harness winds blowing across the high plains of northern Baja California to power homes and businesses in the San Diego area.

Developers broke ground earlier this year at the site just south of the U.S. border with Mexico at the community of La Rumorosa, about half way between Tecate and Mexicali. The first shipment of turbine towers have been delivered to the Port of Ensenada, an IEnova spokeswoman said Monday.

“Wind turbine tower installation will begin in the coming months,” the company wrote in an email. “The project is on-time and on-budget and is expected to commence operations in the first quarter of 2015.”

InterGen describes Sierra Juárez as a roughly $300 million project. A development bank for infrastructure projects along the U.S.-Mexico border has confirmed that it will finance just under $40 million of the project, in coordination with further loans from private lenders.

The North American Development Bank, which is capitalized and overseen by the U.S. and Mexican governments, declined to release financing terms. Bank spokesman Juan Antonio Flores described the offering as a market-rate loan.

The wind project has moved forward despite legal challenges by two San Diego-area environmental groups. In Mexico, the Ensenada-based environmental group Terra Peninsular has sued the country’s environment ministry over permits for the project.

A U.S. presidential permit cleared the way for cross-border transmission lines to carry the wind farm’s electricity to California.

San Diego Gas & Electric has agreed to buy power from the wind farm under a 20-year contract worth an estimated $820 million. Contract costs are passed through to utility customers. At peak capacity, the wind farm would provide electricity for an estimated 65,000 homes.

Intergen operates power plants in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Australia and Mexico – including a major gas-fired power plant near Mexicali. The company is jointly owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and China Huaneng Group.

Sempra Energy has shown a preference for partnering with experienced wind developers, most notably oil and energy giant BP, on large’scale projects.