In May, the 153MW Adama wind farm opened its doors, making it the largest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa to date, reports the AFP.
The 102 70-metre high Chinese-built turbines are situated in a range of rocky hills in the Ethiopian highlands 100 kilometres southeast of the capital Addis Ababa.
Farmers using ox carts to plough the soil around the bases of the wind turbines offer a striking contrast between rural lives, little changed for centuries, and the central government’s ambition to develop a modern, climate-resilient economy.
Renewable energy potential
Without its own gas or oil reserves, Ethiopia is turning to its significant renewable energy potential to fuel its economic development—including damming the Blue Nile and the southern Omo River.
However, the flow of the region’s rivers is subject to rainfall that is erratic in Ethiopia making hydropower less reliable than other sources of clean energy.
Solomon Yismaw Agaje, Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation’s electromechanical supervisor in charge of the Adama wind farm, stated that: “We have an abundance of hydroelectric energy sources, but during the dry season and when droughts happen the level of the dam decreases”, said Agaje, who pointed out that the wind turbines were immune to the dry spells.
“At that time the wind will complement the [hydro] dam. The wind is especially strong during [the] dry season, so wind and hydro [power] complement each other," said Agaje.
Massive power needs
Over 75% of Ethiopia’s 94 million people, mainly those living in rural areas, are not connected to the national grid, and the country needs to increase its electricity production by 20 to 25% per year to meet rising demand, according to figures from the country’s energy ministry.
Ethiopia has set a target of slashing its carbon emissions by two-thirds within the next 15 years, the most ambitious national goal yet that will be presented to an upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Paris later this year.
Ethiopia plans to cut carbon emissions by adopting cleaner practices in agriculture, construction and transport, as well as slowing deforestation.
Healthy mix of renewable energy
Along with the work that is continuing on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River Ethiopia aims to boost other green power projects, harnessing geothermal, solar and wind energy.
“Wind farms are fast track projects; we can construct them within a short time," said Tahaguas Andemariam, consultant engineer and professor at the university of Adama.
He further explained that: “Within 24 months we have constructed this big wind farm of 153MW—hydro would have taken much longer.”
The 6,000MW that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will generate will dwarf the output of the Adama wind farm, but the construction of the facility which began in 2011 isn’t slated to finish until 2017.
More wind expected
Another wind farm, even larger in size and intended to produce 300MW, is due to be constructed at Ayesha in the remote eastern desert near the border with Djibouti, which is another area with strong winds to support the project.
“We now have the knowledge [on] how to develop the roadmap of this wind technology in Ethiopia”, said Tahaguas, who spent a month in China working with other engineers to learn more about the turbines.