Written By: Emma Websdale
The launch of 84 hi-tech turbines this weekend in Ethiopia provides the largest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa, expected to produce 400 million kWh of electricity a year.
This weekend, Ethiopia’s prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, switched on a €210 million ($290 million) wind farm in Ashegoda, easing the region’s dependence on hydropower and bringing East Africa closer to becoming a major regional exporter of energy.
“Various studies have [shown] that there is potential to harness abundant wind energy resources in every region of Ethiopia”, said Desalegn during the launch. “We cannot maintain growth without [using] the energy sector.”
Although the region includes two other operating wind farms, the 120-megawatt (MW) Ashegoda wind farm is the largest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa, where its 84 turbines tower above the villagers and cattle that inhabit the arid region.
The farm, built by French firm Vergnet SA, was completed in phases over three and a half years. It has already produced 90 million kilowatt hours (KWh) for the national grid, but at full capacity is expected to produce 400 million kWh of electricity per year.
The plant is part of an attempt to stabilize Ethiopia’s energy, a country in which over half the population has no access to electricity and with its major cities suffering from regular power outages. With Ethiopia’s wind currents the third strongest in Africa, behind only Egypt and Morocco, the wind farm’s location is prime.
In addition, the newly launched wind farm is a step forward in Ethiopia’s plan to become a carbon-neutral middle-income economy by 2025. The country also aims to produce 900MW of wind energy by 2015.
Financing for the project has been provided by French bank BNP Paribas, the French Development Agency (ADF), and the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo), all of whom will run the plant.
Earlier this month, Hailemariam Desalegn also announced plans to develop a 1000-MW geothermal plant in Ethiopia—one of the largest in the world.