Africa’s emerging wind-energy sector offers stability and promises to drive the region’s economy to double-digit growth by 2030, say observers. Developers and energy planners in the region hope to generate an additional 10.5 GW of clean and sustainable energy in the midterm, once ongoing and planned wind projects are fully developed.
At least 16 wind-energy projects with a total capacity of 1.5 GW are under way on the continent, and another 9 GW worth of projects are planned in the near future. Currently, Africa has an installed wind-energy capacity of 1.1 GW, less than 0.5% of the global capacity.
South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Tanzania are the countries leading the implementation of wind projects as the continent seeks to increase access to electricity. Today, an estimated 500 million people don't have access to electricity in Africa.
A few major developers of wind energy have entered the African wind-energy market successfully, signing engineering, procurement and construction contracts. Others have grabbed orders for the supply of turbines for the planned wind farms.
The African Development Bank says the planned and ongoing projects in southern and eastern Africa will generate 29% and 10%, respectively, of Africa’s wind-energy market.
An estimated 75% of the ongoing and planned wind-energy projects on the continent are in South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. When fully developed, the projects will contribute about 83% of the total current installed capacity. Most of the projects have a capacity ranging from 1 MW to 100 MW.
However, a quarter of the ongoing projects and 36% of those planned are more than 200 MW, “suggesting either progress toward maturity of the market or transferability of technologies already tested in the continent,” say four research economists for the African Development Bank in a 2012 overview of African wind-energy development.
International wind-energy developers have seized the investment opportunity provided by the appreciating African market to successfully bid for turnkey engineering, procurement and construction contracts, while some have grabbed supply tenders of wind turbines at a time when the eurozone crisis is said to have contracted the European market.
Spain’s Gamesa leads the pack of international developers in Africa’s wind market, with installed capacity of 630.8 MW and another 590 MW of planned capacity in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
Meanwhile, Denmark’s Vestas has installed capacity of 136.3 MW and an additional planned capacity of 55 MW in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Cape Verde. France’s Vergnet has a planned total capacity of 125 MW in Eritrea, Mauritius, Ethiopia and Mauritania.