Between 2003 and 2007, 68% of Uruguay’s energy needs were met by hydroelectric dams on the Uruguay River. The largest of these impoundments, the Salto Grande, a facility shared with Argentina, has generated up to half of Uruguay’s electricity in the past. Apart from the bi-national Salto Grande, with a total capacity of 1,890 MW, existing plants are Terra (152 MW), Baygorria (108 MW), Constitucion (333 MW). All the potential for large hydro in Uruguay has already been developed.
Uruguay has good potential for solar energy, with an average horizontal irradiance of 5.2 kWh/m2/day. Statutes are in place to guarantee the use of solar water heating in any public building with over 20% of total energy demand from water heating. There are pilot projects, mainly for municipal lighting.
In Uruguay, the wind resource is favourable, but its cost – estimated at US$45-50/MWh for large projects (50-100 MW) is still uncertain. As result, the estimated wind potential of 600 MW cannot yet be taken as feasible, from an economic standpoint.The first wind farm in Uruguay, the 10 MW Nuevo Manantial project (in Rocha), which will sell the electricity generated to UTE, started operations in October 2008. In January 2009, UTE’s 10 MW wind farm in Sierra de los Caracoles (Maldonado Department) also started operations. According to the National Directorate for Energy and Nuclear Technology (DNETN), grid-connected wind power generation is one of the domestic resources with more potential in Uruguay for the medium and long term.
Rice husk, whose economic volume could generate up to 20 MW at competitive prices; firewood has already been used as a substitute for fuel oil in the 1980s, and cellulose projects expect to generate up to 65 MW for sales to the network.
Whilst the geothermal potential of the Chaco-Paraná basin has been previously examined, no study has yet been conducted as to the potential for geothermal energy use in the country.