Saturday, October 1, 2011

South Africa’s first commercial wind farm

South Africa’s first commercial wind farm, the Darling wind farm, began generating in May 2008 with four turbines, each producing 1.3 MW
By Colin Houghton
A study by Frost & Sullivan:  ”Mega Trends in Africa: A bright vision for the growing continent” was released at an African growth, innovation and leadership conference in Cape Town last month (August).  According to this Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, chronic power problems impede growth and productivity in more than 30 African countries. Inadequate generation capacity, limited electrification, low demand for power, unreliable service, and skyrocketing prices cause serious problems in the sector. Countries would have to spend $40-billion annually over 10 years and take decisive steps to improve the efficiency of power utilities in order to remove these challenges.
But these very challenges present massive potential for renewable energy development, primarily driven by the need to provide electrification to remote communities. The analysis notes that over the next ten years, renewable energy initiatives will be dominated by wind powerprojects, such as the Ashegoda wind farm in Ethiopia  and Tanzania’s Singida wind farm.
A wind farm in the Ngong hills on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya
A wind farm in the Ngong hills on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya

It is ironic that Africa is endowed with both fossil and renewable energy resources that could more than adequately cover its energy needs, yet remains the most poorly electrified continent in the world. The report said “The proportion of people without electricity in Africa is higher than anywhere else on the planet, with as little as 5% of the population having direct access to electricity in some countries.”
One of three giant wind turbines at Eskom's research and demonstration wind farm at Klipheuwel, just north of Cape Town
Things are already happening. In West Africa a wind farm that will supply a quarter of the electricity needs of the Cape Verde islands started operations this August.  
The 25.5MW Cabeolica wind farm will provide power to four islands in the archipelago, which is 570km off the coast of West Africa. The islands have a population of around 500,000 with just under 400,000 tourists visiting annually.
The Cape Verde project
The Cape Verde project

The islands have world-class wind resources of 10m/s, as they lie in the Trade Winds belt, although that also means they can be subject to hurricanes. More than one fifth of the population of the former Portuguese colony is desperately poor, living on less than a pound a day. The development of wind projects will reduce reliance on expensive imported diesel and fuel oil.
Location of Cape Verde islands
Location of Cape Verde islands

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