Ethiopia isn’t a country that comes up often when discussing renewable energy, but the Ethiopian Electric Power Coroporation (EEPCO) this past week announced it’s starting construction of six wind power projects and one geothermal power plant. In total, electricity generation capacity for the renewable energy projects totals more than one gigawatt (1 GW), Ethtiopian news service NewsDire reported.
The renewable energy projects are part of EEPCO’s plans to increase national electricity generation capacity five times by 2015, from a current 2000 megawatts (MW) to about 10,000 MW. Increasing electricity generation, in turn, is key to the government’s broader economic development plans.
Emerging Renewable Energy Powerhouse
Ethiopia’s considers itself a “powerhouse of Africa.” Comprising three climate zones, it ranks second in Africa in terms of hydropower potential, after the Democratic Republic of Congo, and exports significant amounts of electricity to its East African neighbors. Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Minister in March announced a plan to add 5,250 MW of electricity generating capacity by building the Grand Millennium Dam of Ethiopia, which would dam the Nile River near the border with Sudan.
EEPCO views wind power as a clean energy complement to its hydropower generating capacity. Ethiopia has substantial wind power resources. Wind power potential in the East African country totals some 10,000 MW, EEPCO has estimated, which has noted that wind energy is higher in the dry season, when hydropower resources are at their lowest.
The six wind power projects announced this past week include the 300 MW Aysha Wind Farm near the Djibouti border, the 100 MW Debre Birhan Wind Farm north of Addis Ababa, the 100 MW Assela Wind Power Project southeast of the capital, and the 153 MW Adama II Wind Power Project. Also slated to start construction are the 250 MW Galema I Wind Power project and the 42 MW Mesebo Harena Wind Farm.
Ethiopia’s electric utility also intends to start construction of the 70 MW Aluto Langano Geo Thermal project. Rich in geothermal resources, the East African Rift Zone runs through eastern Ethiopia, though the country has thus far been much less active in exploiting it than has neighboring Kenya, which in September announced its intention to generate 30% of its electricity needs from geothermal resources by 2030.
Wind Power Project Development
The wind farm projects will be built and come on-line in phases in partnership with a mix of international companies.
Initial power production from the 300 MW Aysha Wind Farm Project is expected this year, with the first 60MW and full production expected by November 2012. In June, German finance company, Deutsche Unternehmensfinanzierung, announced it would raise $120 million to finance construction of the first 60 MW of capacity, made up of 60 wind turbines.
In addition to the launch of these projects, EEPCO announced that the first 30 MW of the 120 MW Ashegoda Wind Power Plant was brought on-line. The project’s being built by France’s Vergniet S.E.
In mid-July, a Chinese joint venture comprising CGCOC and Hydro China, with financing provided by the Export-Import Bank of China and consulting services being provided Addis Ababa University Technology faculty, began construction of the 51 MW Adama I wind farm. Located about 95 kilometers (km) east of the capital, an initial 15 MW is due to come on-line by the end of the year, according to NewsDire’s report.
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