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Winds of Change

There has been a marked increase in the interest in wind generation in Africa, which hosts a few areas that lend themselves to this form of power generation.


Somalia has the highest onshore potential of any country, followed by Sudan, Libya, Mauritania, Egypt, Madagascar and Kenya. Meanwhile, offshore wind energy potential is considerable just off the coast of Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola and South Africa.

Overcoming the hurdles

One of the biggest hurdles to accelerated roll-out of these projects is the significant upfront costs associated with construction. Adding to this conundrum is the high intermittency factor of this form of peaking power generation, making it extremely difficult to characterise yields and returns.

Investment costs for recent projects in Kenya, Morocco and South Africa ranged between USD1 600/kW and USD3 000/kW. The average was USD2 210/kW, which is similar to some average international prices observed in 2013 and 2014 on wind project builds in the United States and Europe. In China and India, the average total installed cost was significantly lower at USD1 300/kW.

In some areas of the continent, markets for wind power are small and transmission and distribution systems inadequately developed. As such, variable generation from wind would introduce additional challenges to an already unstable and intermittent system.

Specialised skills are also needed to help overcome siting constraints of wind farms, as well as their costs of operation over their lifecycle.

Global projects and expertise

WSP has been involved in the development of more than 100 wind generation projects globally, having worked with owners, EPC contractors, lenders and turbine original equipment manufacturers.

This international involvement in wind energy projects includes Africa. For example, we served as owner’s engineer on the development of the Tarfaya wind farm in Morocco, the largest on the continent adding 301MW of electricity to the country’s grid. Our services spanned the design review, construction and warranty phases of the project.

Tarfaya is one of a number of wind farms that will be built under the Moroccan government’s Integrated Wind Energy Project. Over a 10-year period, the country will invest MAD31.5 billion (USD3.24billion) into growing its energy generation capacity from 250MW in 2010 to 2 000MW by 2020. At present, Morocco is considered the leader in wind generation on the continent.

We also provided independent professional engineering support in the role of owner’s engineer on the Lüderitz wind farm project in Namibia, a country that intends growing this form of renewable energy generation capacity. Our services covered technical specifications, tendering process, design review, technical due diligence and the power-purchase agreement.

These achievements on the continent are complemented by South Africa’s efforts to introduce wind energy to its national grid. There are now more than 400 turbines generating green energy in the country, and more are being developed under REIPP. Under this programme, South Africa plans to install 8.4GW of wind power by 2030, complementing other initiatives, such as solar, biomass and mini-hydro projects.

A place for wind farms in the African continent

A total of 140 wind farms are expected to be operational in Africa by 2020, bringing 21GW to the continent’s grid. This includes Egypt’s impressive plans to install 7GW of wind power by 2020, overshadowed only by its North African counterpart, Morocco.

total capacity

At present, the typical total rated capacity of an African wind farm is smaller than 150MW. However, projects in the pipeline are increasingly pushing the boundaries with projects between 300MW and 700MW also under consideration.

Despite these projects increasing in size at a utility level, there is also a place for smaller turbines in mini-grids that bring important power to outlying areas that would be feasibly impossible to electrify otherwise.

There are many examples on the continent where hybrid systems comprising wind, solar, mini-hydro and diesel generators work hand-in-hand to electrify small, isolated communities.

Certainly, wind is taking its rightful place in the African electricity-generation arena, complementing the incredible work done by the developed world in improving the viability and efficiency of this sustainable energy.

Somalia has the highest onshore potential for wind generation, followed by Sudan, Libya, Mauritania, Egypt, Madagascar and Kenya.