Labeled “the African Lion,” Ethiopia is pushing to become the wind power capital of Africa following the government’s announcement that it plans to increase the country’s total power output from 4,180 megawatts (MW) to 17,000 MW by 2020, according to CNN. In 2013, the country launched one of Africa’s largest wind power farms, the Ashedoga Plant, which currently produces 120 MW. This was followed by an even bigger plant known as the Adama II in 2015, which produces 153 MW.
Currently, wind power in Ethiopia accounts for just 324 MW of the country’s total output, with the majority coming from hydropower.
The government has promised to build five more wind power plants, as it aims to produce at least 5,200 MW from wind power in the next four years.
“We are conducting research and studying the data to see the number of plants we can connect [to the National Grid.] It is important to have different energy sources for a reliable system. Wind is a big focus and we need it,” Head of Communications for the Ethiopian Electric Power Company, Misikir Negash, said.
Huge Task but Doable
While some people are skeptical about the plan to increase wind power output by over 1,000 percent, many others believe it can be done. Some are pegging their optimism on the fact that the government has successfully handled bigger projects before, including the $6 billion Grand Renaissance Dam project.
“I don’t doubt it can be achieved,” said the Director of Ethiopia operations at market research group Asoko Insight, Zekarias Amsalu.
Ethiopia has partnered with the Danish Energy Agency to make this plan achievable. The Agency serves as a one-stop-shop for large wind projects across the world.
Wind power projects are expected to provide immense benefits to the struggling communities in Ethiopia by creating job opportunities and strengthening the country’s position in the region through the export of energy to neighboring countries like Sudan and Kenya.
The country also hopes to set the trend in the region and show its neighbors that low carbon development of the power sector is possible.
Amsalu insists that there is need for Ethiopia to adopt wind power generation because its current hydropower energy has proved to be costly and a major cause of devastating droughts in the country.
He also acknowledges that Ethiopia is blessed with ideal sites for harvesting wind and therefore should take advantage of the opportunity to dominate the wind power production sector in Africa.
“[Ethiopia has] very good winds in the dry season, which is normally when you would like to top up electricity production. From a wind perspective, this is one of the most promising countries in the continent.”
Ethiopia is known to be a hilly country, especially in the southeastern region, where most hills are estimated to be 2,000 meters high. These hills serve as ideal locations for setting up wind power plants.
BY FREDRICK NGUGI