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REGIONS MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA


UnlockingAfrica’s windpower potential


NEWRESEARCH TECHNIQUES UNCOVER ENOUGH ONSHORE WIND TO POWER THE CONTINENT 250 TIMES OVER. DANIELLE MYLES REPORTS


to exploit the under-developed resource to help tackle the region’s severe power shortage. Unlike the continent’s immense


A


and more obvious solar potential, the wind sector’s economies of scale mean it will not develop via decen-


tralised networks. Generation must plug into national grids to make financial sense. A 2020 study commissioned by the Inter-


nationalFinanceCorporation (IFC) foundonshore wind resources in many more African countries than previously thought, creating a collective technical capacity of 176,000 terawatt hours (TWh) per annum— enough to power the conti- nent’sannual energydemand250 times over. Significant potential is located close to


towns and cities, and winds are often strongest in the morning and early evening when elec- tricity demand is highest. “We saw that wind, particularly near the coast, tends to generate almost as an inverse of solar,” says Sean Whittaker, principal industry specialist for renewables at IFC. “From a complementary standpoint, that is huge because in power sys- tem planning it is not just how much power you get, butwhen you get it.” The study used the latest high-resolution,


AFRICA’SWINDPOWERPOTENTIALREMAINSMOSTLYUNTAPPED


ONSHORE WIND POWER TECHNICAL POTENTIAL AND INSTALLED CAPACITY BY COUNTRY


frica has installed just 0.01% of its technical wind poten- tial, and experts are pushing


cloud-basedmodels to pinpoint pockets of wind that could not be identified just five years ago. “Wind is highly localised,” says Mr Whittaker. “It’s one factor thatmakes it tougher to develop than solar.”


World’s windiest sites At end-2020, Africa had installed 6.4 gigawatts (GW) of its 58,400GW of technical potential identified by IFC. That represents less than 1% of the 707GW of onshore wind installed glob- ally, as identified by the Global Wind Energy Council. Some 19 African states have projects operat-


ing today, but the vast majority are concen- trated in South Africa (2.5GW), Egypt (1.5GW) and Morocco (1.3GW). All three brought new capacity online last year, and are among the 17 countries that, according to IFC, have the poten- tial to rival the most productive onshore wind sites in the world. That list also includes places not tradition-


ally knownfor their strong wind potential, such as Djibouti, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Namibia. Another inclusion is Algeria, which hosts a whopping 7717GWof technical wind potential — more than any other African state — of which it has installed just 10megawatts (MW). Last year, Senegal opened west Africa’s first


large-scale wind farm, a 158MW facility in the Thiès region backed by the UK’s Actis and Ireland’s Mainstream Renewable Power. fDi Markets shows the latter to be the most active foreign investor in Africa’s nascent wind sector, followed by Enel, EDF, Engie and Windvision.


Grid challengeloomslarge After accounting for financial, environmental, social and logistical constraints, Africa’s com- mercial wind capacity will be significantly less than the 58,400GW identified by IFC. But the sheer magnitude of its technical potential means developing even 1% would satisfy a sig- nificant portion of Africa’s energy needs. The biggest technical obstacle is the limited


reach of many countries’ grids. Mauritania, for instance, has “some incredible wind resources, butmuch of which is pretty far from the grid”, notes Mr Whittaker. The continent’s solar sector has used its nat-


Source: IFC • *Data not available for Comoros, Cape Verde, Seychelles and Mauritius 86


ural advantages to overcome this problem. Not only is the resource more equally dispersed than wind, but its cost structure has allowed the sector to develop via small off-grid solu- tions. “For distributed generationwithina com-


www.fDiIntelligence.com August/September 2021


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