Australian renewable energy developer Windlab announced on Tuesday that it had been awarded environmental approval by the Tanzanian Government to construct the country’s first wind farm, a 300 megawatt (MW) wind farm set to be built in the center of the country.
Windlab announced earlier this week that its local subsidiary, Windlab Developments Tanzania, had been awarded an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Certificate by the Tanzanian Government for the construction of the 300 MW Miombo Hewani Wind Farm and transmission line project which is set to be located 10 kilometers north of Makambako, in Southern Central Tanzania.
The Miombo Hewani Wind Farm is expected to be built in phases, the first of which will be around 100 MW and include up to 34 wind turbines and the infrastructure necessary to connect it to the country’s electricity grid. Windlab expects the first phase of the project to bring approximately $300 million worth of investments to the country.
The ESIA Certificate is the first such to be issued in Tanzania for a wind energy project and required a lengthy process involving multiple independent studies, consultants, stakeholders, and institutions.
“We are very pleased to receive the first EISA for a wind farm in Tanzania,” said Roger Price, the CEO of Windlab Limited. “In developing Miombo Hewani, Windlab has applied the industry best practices and experience it has gained from developing more than 50 wind energy projects across North America, Australia and Southern Africa.”
“Miombo Hewani enjoys an excellent wind resource; not only amongst the best on the continent but one of the best in the world. The wind resource pattern is biased towards night time generation and generation during the dry season in Tanzania, making it an ideal addition for Tanzania’s current and planned electricity generation mix.”
“The Wanging’ombe District Council has been happy to work with Windlab as they develop a first of its kind wind farm in Tanzania,” added Ali Kassinge, the Wangingo’mbe District Commissioner who has been a champion for the project which will be built in his district. “We look forward to the project being built and the benefits that will be realized at the local and district level due to the jobs created and the income that it will bring.”
While this is a big step forward, it is important to note that this is also not the same as a definitive confirmation of development. According to Victoria Cuming, Head of Policy for Europe, the Middle East & Africa for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, who spoke to me via email, such announcements should be taken “with a substantial pinch of salt” because “utility-scale renewables are moving slowly in Tanzania for a range of reasons, not least there’s no incentive mechanism.”
“Generally, the government is focusing on gas and oil (and electricity imports from Ethiopia) with very modest renewables build for the foreseeable future, according to its power sector master plan published last year,” Cuming explained to me. “Getting an environmental licence is far away from securing a PPA, then financing, and then commissioning. The grid connection would also be a hurdle, as would the off-taker’s (Tanesco) credit-worthiness from an investor’s perspective.”
“The industry has had its eye on Tanzania for some time, and I’m glad to see that the Windlab project has passed this important hurdle,” said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, who similarly spoke to me via email. “There’s still a long way to go, but I’m hopeful that this will be just the beginning of Tanzania harnessing its excellent wind resources to generate clean, indigenous power drive both its growing economy and to help bring power to the millions of Tanzanians who don’t yet have access.
“The developers seem to be sensibly approaching this in stages, with a first stage of 100 MW, which, when up and running, will be the first demonstration of the benefits of wind energy in the country; and if we get to that stage, then I believe the balance of the 300 MW plant will be built out shortly thereafter.”