This is an extract from a recent report “The Status of Wind in Africa” prepared by GWEC. The report focuses on the wind energy’s footprint, the role wind currently plays and its bright future prospects across the continent.
The wind industry in Africa started off in Egypt in the late 1980s and early 1990s with an initial series of small utility-scale wind farms generally financed by soft loans from European donor countries. There were also a number of single turbine demonstration plants meant to be “proof of concept” for larger wind farms that started in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These were implemented in Cape Verde, South Africa, Kenya and Morocco amongst others. Larger utility-scale plants then started to come online beginning around 2000-2001. Notable examples include the Nassim Koudia Al Baida wind farm in Morocco in 2000, Ngong Hills in Kenya in 2001, Eskom’s 3.2 MW Klipheuwel wind farm pilot plant in 2003, and the Boa Vista wind farm in Cape Verde in 2011.
At the end of 2020 IRENA estimated that 6.5 GW of wind was installed in Africa with the main markets being South Africa, Morocco and Egypt, and secondary markets being Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tunisia. The identified capacity in this study is 9 GW considering plants that are installed and under construction and scheduled to be commissioned in 2023. Apart from the aforementioned countries, new capacity is being built in Senegal, Réunion, Nigeria, Tanzania and Djibouti. This growth reflects that wind power has now expanded across all major sub-regions of Africa, except for Central Africa.
A noteworthy addition has been the Taiba N’diaye Wind Farm in Senegal. The 158.7 MW wind farm developed by Lekela Power and owned by Infinity Power is the biggest wind farm in Western Africa. It accounts for 15% of the installed capacity in Senegal and provides power for over 2 million Senegalese. There has been a steady increase in the installed capacity of wind in Africa since 2000.
The leading country by installed capacity is South Africa followed by Morocco and Egypt.
Considering the five subregions of Africa, North Africa leads in terms of total installed capacity due to the influence and early onset of renewable energy programs in Egypt and Morocco which saw initial utility-scale wind project commissioning in 1988 and 2000 respectively. Southern Africa, dominated by wind farms in South Africa largely installed through the REIPPP scheme, has the second highest installed wind capacity. Eastern Africa comes in third with several operational wind farms in Ethiopia and Kenya. The spread of wind projects in the African continent has improved with new projects in Western and Eastern Africa balancing the traditional markets of Northern and Southern Africa.
The leading OEM in terms of installed capacity in Africa is Siemens Gamesa comprising 48% of the wind turbine installations by MW capacity. The list of the top 5 OEMs by installed capacity in Africa is completed by Vestas, Nordex Acciona, General Electric and Sany.
Potential of Wind Power in Africa
IRENA estimated a technical potential of 461 GW for wind in Africa. Algeria, Ethiopia, Namibia and Mauritania were reported as possessing the greatest potential. The greatest onshore wind potential is spread across the Sahel, North Africa, Eastern Africa, and Southern Africa. Islands of the East and West of the African continent also display significant potential. The greatest offshore potential in Africa is concentrated in the Western African coast and the Southern African Coast followed by the Red Sea and Mediterranean Coast as well as the East African Coast.
The IFC estimated a total technical potential capacity of 33,642 GW spread across the five African subregions.
Announced Wind Projects
A total of 86 GW of planned and announced wind projects across the continent was identified. Egypt looks set to dominate the wind sector in Africa over the coming decade considering its significant technical potential, existing installed capacity, established local manufacturing industry and numerous recently announced projects.
These projects align with the country’s ambition to have 42% of its energy from renewables by 2030. There is also a developing green hydrogen related wind generation capacity in Egypt by various parties. The areas East and West of Minya have been earmarked as a green hydrogen development zone. These projects have announced a total of 14.203 GW of new wind capacity dedicated to the green hydrogen industry. Namibia has also seen the announcement of a 2.5GW wind farm dedicated to green hydrogen.
Overall, 140 projects planned across Africa representing 58 GW of planned new wind capacity were identified and mapped. These included projects in countries new to wind such as Angola, Chad, Mali, Ghana, Sudan, Niger, Madagascar, Uganda, Zambia, and Malawi.
Overview Of Wind Energy Drivers
- According to IRENA the development of the wind sector in Africa has been tied to policy interest and the geography of the wind resources. African countries are choosing to implement wind farms to achieve their climate goals and power supply needs.
- Wind has contributed to the growth of installed capacity and available energy to African grids that have capacity and energy constraints. The Lake Turkana wind farm contributes 17% of Kenya’s installed capacity while the Taiba N’diaye wind farm increased Senegal’s installed capacity by 15%. Wind farms provide needed capacity and energy to increase the level of electricity supply in the countries looking to expand supply and access to electricity, with the added benefit of supplying renewable power.
- Wind has been deployed together with other technologies to stabilise grids by complementing other supply technologies. Wind and solar show complementarity with the daytime dips in wind being complimented by peaks in solar and loss of solar in the night matched with strong wind supply in the night. This has seen hybrid projects developed to improve the profile of supply from power plants based on either wind or solar. Wind will continue to be applied in the stabilisation of solar installations. Wind has higher capacity factors and supplies at night when solar is unavailable. The Cross Boundary Energy hybridised Ehoala project in Madagascar is a striking example. Hybridisation has also been undertaken by combination with hydro as in the 2.4 MW Mwenga wind Farm in Tanzania. The wind farm is installed in an isolated grid running primarily on a mini-hydro plant of 4 MW. The farm supports supply during periods of low hydrology, as is the case on a large scale with wind and hydropower complementarity in Latin American countries like Brazil, Uruguay and Costa Rica.
- The generation mix in most African countries is dominated by hydropower plants, which can leave countries vulnerable to periods of drought and to ageing hydropower infrastructure. Some large economies that are reliant on thermal plants for the bulk of their generation are opting to increase renewable energy capacity to mitigate the economic risks of depending on imports of fossil fuels, particularly given the recent price volatility of international gas markets. South Africa, with a generation mix that is heavily reliant on coal, has also been pursuing renewable energy, now having concluded its 6th round of renewable energy auctions. As of 2022 the country’s installed capacity of 54 GW comprised 3.4 GW wind, 2.3 GW solar PV, 0.5 GW concentrated solar power, 0.6 GW hydro, 39.8 GW coal and 3.4 GW diesel.
- Industries are choosing to install their own wind farms to supply their power needs directly. This is motivated by cost, and a need to reduce the carbon footprint of their products. This trend of wind farms being installed at a captive site of a commercial or industrial entity will continue as companies look to secure clean energy supply, reduce costs, and decarbonise their footprints. Further, the continued expansion of wheeling arrangements will allow for more offsite generation.
- As the installed wind farms in Africa approach the end of their commercial and technical lives, and wind turbine technology continues to improve, there will be a need to repower sites with strong wind technical resources. From the commissioning dates of the identified projects there will be a peak of repowering activity in Africa between 2034 and 2038, as many power plants reach the end of contractual life. Today single onshore turbines of 6 MW are available. Repowering offers an efficient pathway for countries to maximise productivity and socioeconomic benefits from sites already designated for wind power production.
- Green hydrogen has been identified as having the potential to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors of the economy that rely on hydrogen. To achieve a truly green hydrogen sector which is in line with decarbonisation and energy security goals, a ramp up of renewable energy installed capacity will be required. Wind is well placed to take a leading role owing to the relative abundance of underutilised high-quality sites such as in Egypt and Kenya, that offer higher capacity factors compared to solar. There have been announcements of big wind farms in Africa that would be developed with the intention to focus on the production of green hydrogen. Egypt and Namibia have been at the forefront of these developments with announcements.
- The e-mobility market in Africa is diverse, with wide-ranging levels of advancement related to the overall development of a specific economy. This new demand from e-mobility and the need to ensure low-carbon transportation is enhanced will send a demand signal for more wind power to be developed in the continent. Wind resources match well with the night time charging of e-vehicles due to the higher resource availability at night, often at times of low demand on the grid. This alignment puts wind at a better position among renewables to supply charging power for the transport sector.
- The integration of markets at a regional level will allow for development of wind plants in high potential countries for trade with high demand countries allowing better integrated use of resources available in the region. The development of regional power trading markets, with appropriate structures and rules, across these power pools will increase the attractiveness of domestic supply of wind and other renewable energy, as offtakers will increasingly seek zero-carbon forms of energy.
- The growth of electricity demand in tandem with population and economic growth in Africa will open possibilities of trade in Africa. The African Union launched the Africa Single Electricity Market (AfSEM) in 2021 looking to interconnect the 55 African countries and allow for trade in electricity. A further step is the development of market frameworks across the region allowing for trading of long-term and short-term capacities both bilaterally and in wholesale markets. The African market has five active power pools COMELEC, WAPP, CAPP, EAPP, and SAPP with some more active than others. There are also overlaps with some countries being members of more than one pool. The integration of markets at a regional level will allow for development of wind plants in high potential countries for trade with high demand countries allowing better use of resources available in the region.
This report built a database of the wind projects that are announced, in operation, or under construction in Africa. A total of 223 projects were identified representing an installed capacity of 67 GW. These projects are spread across the continent with concentration in Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya. The total technical potential for wind as identified by the IFC is 34,700 GW. Each of the five regions of Africa has significant potential with North Africa having the highest potential at 18 GW. This potential shows that with the right regulatory environment and grid conditions, wind can play a significant role in electricity supply in the continent. The identified installed and projects under construction account for an estimated $15 billion in investments and 24.4 million tonnes of CO2 abated annually.
Localisation has begun to take root in the wind industry with local funds being invested in projects. This trend is apparent in South Africa and increasingly in Morocco. Community owned projects and projects partially owned by local development companies are also noted. Though there is a push for more localisation of manufacturing there will be a need to develop an 800 MW a year market for at least 5 years to justify local manufacture of blades.
Overall, wind is deployed to contribute to countries’ reduction in carbon footprint, to reduce the cost of supply, to increase available energy capacity in grids, to diversify supply, and to captively supply industries. Green hydrogen, repowering, e-mobility, and activation of regional power pools are seen as the future areas from which demand for new wind capacity will emerge. With so much untapped potential, wind will continue to play a big role in Africa’s electricity supply for the foreseeable future.
Access the complete report here