As the quest to electrify Africa continues, African countries are exploring alternatives to gas and solar energy to power electricity. Wind power has become one viable option that leading economies in the continent are tapping into.
Africa is the least electrified continent in the world with a booming population of young people pushing through entrepreneurship; the situation has dampened its economic growth, making more rooms for unemployment.
Industrial activities have also been stymied, and it wanes the interest of potential foreign direct investments. Efforts to curtail the deficiencies have been in slow pace. National grids are underperforming, producing much less than what is required for electricity stability. In Nigeria, power generation still hangs around 4,000mw when the country, with a population of about 200 million people, needs 180,000 megawatts to generate enough power for constant electricity supply.
Solar energy and coal have been used as alternatives to power generation but they have also fallen short of the required capacity, and their efficiency has become questionable due to technical shortfalls especially solar panels. And in an era when the world is pushing for cleaner energy, various options are being entertained outside gas powered electricity.
In search of diversified alternatives, African countries are taking aim at wind energy. Last year, following the lead of Egypt, Morocco, Ethiopia and the Middle East installed about 900 megawatts of wind power. The development is attracting others who eagerly look for a solution to their epileptic power situation.
On Monday, Senegal inaugurated the largest wind power plant in West Africa. The plant is projected to supply up to 15% of energy to the country’s national electricity company, Senelec’s energy production.
The plant which was built by British renewable power company Lekela, is said to have 158 megawatts capacity and took a period of 24 months hours to be built. The Senegalese president Macky Sall said the plant is evident of the country’s resolve to find a new approach to its electricity generation.
“A new step in the energy market towards an emerging Senegal. Emerging Senegal, a Senegal that is fueled by its momentum through an energy mix that combines all of our potentials to ensure continuous quality service at competitive costs,” he said.
The president said two million people will gain access to electricity through the wind power project. Senegal has about 35% deficit in electricity supply, prompting the government to include power efficiency into its plan of making West Africa an emerging economy in 2025.
South Africa is planning to add 3.3 gigawatts to its energy capacity by 2024 using wind power. The country has been struggling to keep its electricity capacity in par with the growing population and economic progress. The lapses in the country’s electricity supply have doubled recently, resulting in blackouts and suggesting a need for diversification of its power sources. In the quest to meet the growing demand, South Africa needs to expand its electricity infrastructure, and the country has adopted wind energy as the alternative.
Kenya has also taken on a giant wind energy project in a desert located 600 kilometers north of the capital Nairobi. Described as Africa’s largest wind power project, the Lake Turkana Wind Power farm is made up of 365 turbines with a power dispensing capacity of 310 megawatts. It is expected at completion to supply cleaner electricity at a more affordable cost compared to the national grid.
Ethiopia is notable for its Ashegoda Wind Farm, the turbine has 120 megawatts power and supplies electricity to about 3 million people. Located 780 km north of the capital Addis Ababa, the wind plant has reduced the cost of electricity allowing the Ethiopian Electric Power Generation Corporation (EEPCo) to produce each kWh at a low cost of about $0.08 per kWh.
In Egypt, the Ras Ghareb Windfarm with 262.5MW capacity project has been developed close to the Gulf of Suez, about 30 km from north-west of Ras Ghareb. The wind farm is expected to supply electricity to about 500,000 households, according to power-technology website. It is also expected to help the Egyptian government’s target of 20% supply of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.
One of the major challenges so far has been efficient wind to power the turbines. According to the Renewable Energy Focus, annual average wind speeds greater than 4 meters per second m/s (9mph) are required for small wind turbines. And for larger scale turbines, a minimum average wind speed of 6 m/s (13 mph) is required. So the coastal regions of the continent are the best places to situate the wind farms.
The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)’s data shows that wind energy installation is expected to increase over the next five years, and the African regions are expected to install 10.7 gigawatts by 2024.