Ethiopia has launched Africa’s biggest wind farm in Ashegoda – the country’s northern Tigray region – to ease its dependence on hydropower.
The unveiling of the $290 million Ashegoda Wind Farm, built by French firm Vergnet SA, with concessional loans from BNP Paribas and the French Development Agency (AFD), will not only ease Ethiopia’s dependence on hydropower but will bring the East African nation a step closer to becoming a major regional exporter of energy.
Africa’s second most populous nation is planning to boost generating capacity from 2,000 MW to 10,000 MW within the next three to five years – much of which will come from the 6,000 MW Grand Renaissance Dam that is under construction on the Nile.
The wind plant is expected to generate 120MW of electricity – a fair share of Ethiopia’s ambition of producing around 900MW wind energy by 2015.
The 84-turbine farm – straddling on a sprawling field of grassland dotted by stone-brick hamlets more than 780km north of the capital Addis Ababa – is part of a strategy to mitigate the impact of dry seasons on the country’s dams.
Earlier this year, Ethiopia signed a $4 billion preliminary agreement with US-Icelandic firm Reykjavik for the development of a 1,000 MW geothermal farm south of its capital, Addis Ababa. When completed, the project will be Africa’s largest geothermal plant.
The Ethiopian Electric and Power Corporation (EEPCO) puts Ethiopia’s hydropower potential at around 45,000 MW and geothermal potential at 10,000 MW, while its wind power potential at an estimated 1.3 million MW is believed to be Africa’s third-largest behind Egypt and Morocco.
At the launch Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn said: “Various studies have proved that there is potential to harness abundant wind energy resources in every region of Ethiopia.”
“We cannot maintain growth without utilising the energy sector,” he added.
Meanwhile, Vergnet’s site manager Roman Coutrot, was quick to explain that Ethiopia might have one of the most impressive investment plans in renewable energy in Africa. According to him, “[Ethiopia] is not only talking, they are acting and signing contracts. The problem they might face is financing but they are not worried about that.”
The newly-launched wind farm is a crucial step in Ethiopia’s bid to become a carbon-neutral middle income economy by 2025. It also tallies with its hopes to become East Africa’s biggest energy producer.