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Wind Energy Growth in Africa

Modern onshore wind turbines—some of which stand more than 160 meters tall—are a common sight in many countries, supplying electricity to tens of millions of households while also providing employment for millions of people.

Modern onshore wind turbines—some of which stand more than 160 meters tall—are a common sight in many countries, supplying electricity to tens of millions of households while also providing employment for millions of people. As reported by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the global wind power market has nearly quadrupled in size over the past decade, thanks to technological advancements and economies of scale, and has established itself as one of the most cost-competitive and resilient energy sources available anywhere in the world. In 2020, record growth was fueled by a surge in installations in China and the United States, the world’s two largest wind power markets, which together accounted for nearly 75 percent of new installations and more than half of the world’s total wind power capacity in 2020. Today, there is a total of 743 GW of wind power capacity worldwide, which contributes to the avoidance of over 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2 globally – an amount equal to the annual carbon emissions of the entire continent of South America.

Unfortunately, despite this global expansion, Africa only accounts for less than 1% of the world’s total installed wind power capacity. However, there are reasons to be optimistic about the potential for wind development in Africa, as recent studies have revealed that there are more wind resources available for wind generation in many more African countries than previously thought. In 2019, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) commissioned a study to assess the potential for wind power in Africa, which discovered that the continent possesses a staggering technical wind potential of nearly 180,000 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, which is enough to meet the entire continent’s electricity demands 250 times over. Under the constraints of technical, financial, environmental, and social constraints, the commercial or practical wind potential would be significantly reduced. The study also discovered that two-thirds of Africa’s total wind potential is concentrated in areas with average wind speeds greater than 7.5 metres per second. This is extremely exciting news

THE PROCESS BY WHICH WIND ENERGY IS PRODUCED

Wind energy is used to generate electricity by harnessing the kinetic energy created by moving air. These wind turbines and wind energy conversion systems convert the kinetic energy of the wind into electrical energy. Wind strikes a turbine’s blades first, causing them to rotate and, in turn, turning the turbine to which they are connected. In this case, rotational energy is converted from kinetic energy through the movement of a shaft that is connected to a generator, resulting in the production of electrical energy through electromagnetism. The amount of energy that can be harvested from the wind is determined by the size of the turbine and the length of its blades, among other factors. This generator produces an output that is proportional to the size of the rotor and to the cube of the wind speed. Theoretically, when the wind speed doubles, the wind power potential increases by a factor of eight, according to the International Energy Agency. 

Wind Energy Produced on the Land

As stand-alone applications, wind turbines can be connected to a utility power grid, or they can be combined with a photovoltaic (solar cell) system to generate electricity. When it comes to utility-scale (megawatt-sized) wind energy, a large number of wind turbines are typically clustered together to form a wind plant, which is also referred to as a wind farm in some circles. Several electricity providers are now supplying their customers with electricity generated by wind turbines. The majority of stand-alone wind turbines are used for water pumping or for communication purposes. Wind turbines, on the other hand, can be used by homeowners, farmers, and ranchers who live in windy areas to reduce their electric bill costs.

Wind Power on a Distributed Basis

Small wind systems have the potential to be used as distributed energy resources as well as renewable energy sources. A variety of small, modular power-generation technologies are referred to as “distributed energy resources”, and they can be used in conjunction to improve the operation of the electricity distribution system. Distributed wind turbines are connected at the distribution level of an electricity delivery system (or in off-grid applications) to serve on-site energy demand or to support the operation of local electricity distribution networks. Distributed wind is a term used to describe wind turbines that are used as a distributed energy resource.

Energy from Offshore Wind

The presence of strong and constant winds in the open sea draws attention to the potential of offshore wind energy. Because of the higher number of full-load hours compared to comparable land-based systems, the energy yield is twice as high. As a result, offshore wind farms are making an increasingly significant contribution to energy supply.

The Benefits of Wind Energy 

  1. Wind energy is a cost-effective source of energy. Land-based utility-scale wind energy is one of the most affordable sources of energy available today, with costs per kilowatt-hour ranging from 1–2 cents after the production tax credit. Considering that the electricity generated by wind farms is sold at a fixed price over a long period of time (e.g., 20+ years) and that its fuel is free, wind energy reduces the price uncertainty that traditional sources of energy face as a result of fuel costs. 
  2. Wind energy creates jobs. The wind energy industry in the United States employs more than 100,000 people, and wind turbine technicians are one of the fastest growing occupations in the country. According to the Wind Vision Report, wind energy has the potential to support more than 600,000 jobs in industries such as manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and supporting services by 2050. 

Challenges in the Application of Wind Power

  1. In spite of the fact that the cost of wind energy has decreased dramatically in recent decades, wind projects must be able to compete economically with the least expensive source of electricity. Some areas, for example, may not be windy enough to be cost competitive. It is not uncommon for good land-based wind sites to be located in remote areas, far away from the cities where the electricity is required. Transmission lines must be constructed in order to transport the electricity generated by the wind farm to the city. The construction of just a few of the already-proposed transmission lines, however, could significantly reduce the costs associated with expanding wind energy. 
  2. Wind resource development may not be the most profitable use of land available for development. It is necessary to compete with alternative uses for land that may be more valuable than electricity generation for land that is suitable for wind turbine installation.
  3. Turbines have the potential to cause noise and visual pollution. However, while wind power plants have a low environmental impact when compared to conventional power plants, there is some concern about the noise produced by the turbine blades and their visual impact on the landscape. 

Some wind energy locations in Africa

  1. Lake Turkana Wind Farm in Kenya: This wind farm, located near Lake Turkana, Kenya, generates 310 megawatts (MW) of reliable, low-cost energy, enough to power one million homes. The Lake Turkana wind power project, valued at $650 million, is the single largest private investment in the country to date, in addition to being the largest wind power project on the continent. It is located in the Loiyangalani District of Marsabit County, Kenya, and is known as the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project (also known as “the Wind Farm”). It is made up of 365 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 850kW, as well as a high-voltage transmission substation. 
  1. Tarfaya Wind Farm in Morocco: Located in Morocco’s Tarfaya region, the Tarfaya Wind Farm is owned and operated by a 50/50 joint venture between GDF SUEZ and Nareva Holding, which sells the electricity produced to the country’s National Electricity Office. The wind farm, which spans more than 100 km2 across the Saharan Desert and represents a $560 million investment, is the largest onshore facility on the continent. It has 131 wind turbines and is the largest onshore facility on the continent.
  1. Taiba N’diaye Wind Farm in Senegal: It has an installed capacity of 158 megawatts. The Taiba N’Diaye wind farm in Senegal, which was developed by Lekela Power, is the country’s first utility-scale wind energy project. Building on the financial close reached in July 2018, construction began in December 2018, and the first 50 MW phase of the farm became operational in December 2019. The project is expected to be completed in 2022. The Taiba N’Diaye Wind Farm has the capacity to generate 400 GWh of clean electricity per year, which will offset 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. It is expected to increase Senegal’s total electricity output by 15 percent as a result of its construction.
  1. Khobab and Loeriesfontein 2 farms in South Africa have a capacity of 280 megawatts (MW).The sister facilities began commercial operation in December 2017 and together form the country’s largest single expanse of wind turbines, consisting of a total of 122 wind turbine generators that generate enough electricity to power 240,000 South African households for a 20-year period.

According to a policy brief published by the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP), ways to support the growth of wind energy in Africa are discussed. The brief emphasizes that Africa must dramatically increase its generation capacity in order to achieve full access to sustainable energy services for its citizens, as stipulated in the African Union’s Agenda 2063, as part of its long-term sustainable master plan for development. Onshore wind power in Africa has the potential to meet the region’s electricity demand by a factor of 250 (180,000 TWh per year), and each of the continent’s 27 countries has enough wind potential to theoretically supply all of Africa with electricity. Installed wind capacity is only equivalent to 6,500 MW of electricity in 2020; this corresponds to a fraction of the technology’s overall potential.

Feel free to contact the Energy Transition Centre today with questions. 

·  Julius Moerder, Head of Energy Transition Centre [email protected]

·  Oneyka Ojogbo, Head of Energy Transition Centre, Nigeria & West Africa [email protected]

·  Leon van Der Merwe, Head of Energy Transition Centre, South Africa [email protected]