Ethiopia takes the wind power lead in Africa for now

Boy standing by the newly erected Ashegoda Wind Farm, the biggest in Africa. Photo credit: Reuters.
By Anders Lorenzen

After little progress so far, it seems the wind power generation in Africa is starting to accelerate. With funding from French firm Vergnet SA and concessional loans from BNP Paribas and the French Development Agency (AFD), Ethiopia switched on the flicks to Africa’s largest wind farm last week. The Ashegoda Wind Farm, costing 210 million euro ($289.68 million), boasts of a power generating capacity of 120 megawatts (MW). The wind farm consists of 84 turbines and are straddling a sprawling field of grassland dotted by stone-brick hamlets more than 780 kilometers north of Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia currently relies heavily on hydropower generation for it’s electricity which prompts fierce power blackouts in dry periods which the Horn of Africa country regularly suffers from. The country’s wind power strategy, which will see a total of 800 (MW) of new capacity added in the next three to five years, will compliment it’s hydropower: “When you have a dry water season we have higher wind speed” said Mihret Debebe, CEO of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation.

In related news, South Africa announced plans for seven new wind farms that will aid the country’s ambition to have renewable energy capacity of 3.7 gigawatts (GW) by 2020. Three of the wind farms that have been announced are bigger than the one having been constructed in Ethiopia, but more critically when they have all been constructed they will add 799 (MW) to South Africa’s wind power output. The seven approved wind farms are:

  1. The 140MW Khobab Wind Farm in the Namakwa district.
  2. The 140MW Loeriesfontein Wind Farm both in the Namakwa district.
  3. The 80MW Noupoort Wind Farm in the Umsobomvu district.
  4. One 100MW and in the De Aar district.
  5. One 140MW, to be built in the De Aar district.
  6. One wind farm of 111MW to be built at Kouga in the Eastern Cape.
  7. One wind farm of 88MW to be built near Cookhouse in the Eastern Cape.

Other renewable projects were also announced by the two countries; Ethiopia building on their geothermal potential while South Africa announced a string of solar power projects.

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton
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