Why Are Wind Farm Developers Loving Africa?

By D.A. Barber AFKI Original Published: February 17, 2015, 2:05 am
Wind energy farm in South Africa (Photo: res-sa.com)

This may well become the year of the wind farm in Africa.

A flurry of signed deals and ground breaking for new wind farm projects has taken place during the last few months, including several finished projects that have just gone online.

And there is no sign of the pace slowing.

“I think the pace of development will only increase from here on out,” Steve Sawyer, Global Wind Energy Council’s Secretary General told AFKInsider.

“The Wind power capacity in sub-Saharan Africa increases by around 12 gigawatts by 2040,” according to the “New Policies Scenario” of the October International Energy Agency’s Africa Energy Outlook Report.

A Feb. 10 report from the Global Wind Energy Council notes the global wind industry added a record-breaking 51,477 megawatts of installed capacity in 2014, a 44 percent increase from the previous year. The statistics are “a solid sign of the recovery of the industry after a rough patch in the past few years,” according to the report.

A separate Feb. 5 report from the World Wind Energy Association concurs.

In a written statement, Stefan Gsänger, WWEA Secretary General noted that wind power investment is “still speeding up at an enormous pace,” and the “new markets in Latin America as well as in Africa are reflecting the importance which wind power is now playing in the electricity supply, as a cheap and reliable power source.”

There are eight African countries that have the greatest wind energy potential among the world’s developing nations.

In sub-Saharan Africa, high quality wind resources are confined to a few areas, mainly the Horn of Africa, eastern Kenya, parts of West and Central Africa bordering on the Sahara and parts of Southern Africa, according to the Africa Energy Outlook report.

Somalia has the highest onshore potential of any country, followed by Sudan, Libya, Mauritania, Egypt, Madagascar and Kenya.”

That report notes that sub-Saharan Africa’s wind potential could “produce several times the current level of total African electricity consumption.”

Briefly surveying the current individual projects gives a good indication who the major players are and how they’re being funded.

Kenya

With less than 25 percent of the population having access to power, Kenya’s government wants to expand its power generation capacity from about 1,700 megawatts now to another 5,000 megawatts by 2017 and it’s hoping to do that partly by adding a lot of wind.

Until recently, Kenya had one wind farm: the 5 megawatt Ngong Hills Wind Farm west of Nairobi and owned by state utility Kengen.

In November, the Spanish companies Iberdrola and Gamesa wrapped up construction of the 13.6 megawatt Ngong 2 Wind Farm. The new facility features 16 Gamesa turbines and was financed by the Spanish Enterprise Internationalization Fund.

Now, after repeated delays due to financing after the World Bank pulled out of a partial risk guarantee plan in October 2012, London-based Aldwych International has begun construction at the The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project on 40,000 acres of the southeastern shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.

The $765 million, 310-megawatt project uses 365 wind turbines from Denmark-based Vestas. Once the wind farm goes online in early 2017, it will be the largest wind power project in Africa and generate about 15 percent of Kenya’s power – equivalent to approximately 330,000 households.

With the Kenyan government, African Development Bank and Standard Chartered Bank guaranteeing funding to the project, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) approved $250 million in June to support the project.

Ketraco, the Kenyan national grid company, is constructing a 280-mile transmission line connecting the project to the outskirts of Nairobi. The African Development Bank signed a contract on Dec. 8 to give Ketraco a partial risk guarantee worth $24.5 million to complete it.

In October, the World Bank, through its International Finance Corporation, took a $20 million equity stake in the 100-megawatt Kipeto Wind Farm project in Southern Kenya, 40 miles south-west of Nairobi.

The $316 million project got a further boost on Dec. 11 when the Overseas Private Investment Corporation approved $233 million in support. The wind turbines will be supplied by General Electric and the 18-month construction is expected to begin early this year.

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  • archaeopteryx

    wind developers like Africa because they love suckers with extra space and some spare cash; as long as wind installed capacity is small one may always install some more to siphon more cash out. The same lies will be dished out to a new bunch of ignorants and that is about it. With a fraction of the capital, Africa would have real power plants. But electrical power is not the objective