Panama to boost power output 30% with US gas

A $900m project to build a combined cycle natural gas power station is due to begin in Panama this year.

The scheme, developed by the AES Corporation, a US energy developer, will use natural gas from the US to increase the country’s installed generating capacity by a third, from 2.4GW to 3.2GW.

The Proyecto Costa Norte scheme will be located in the province of Colon, on the Atlantic coast of the country, opposite Panama City.

Miguel Bolinaga, manager of AES Panama, told the Revista Construir website that the plant would be efficient and environment-friendly because it used combined cycle technology to generate electricity from the gas turbines’ waste heat.

He said the plant would start operating within 30 months.

The scheme will also involve building a 170,000-cubic-metre regasification terminal to receive the gas from the US Gulf Coast.

Announcing the project win in September last year, AES said this terminal would enable Panama to be an energy hub for Central America and the Caribbean.

Telfers Island, where the port and power plant will be built (AES)

According to Bolinaga, the investment will create about 2,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and about 250 jobs during operation.

It will also help to provide security of supply to the country, and reduce its dependency on hydro power.

At present some 60% of Panamanian industry is supplied by dams, which makes it vulnerable to the effects of drought.

In 2013 a severe drought led the government to order public buildings to close between 10pm and 6am.

Photograph: The Cinta Costera district of Panama City. The country is currently dependent on hydro scheme for power (Ayaita/Wikimedia Commons)

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