Wind turbines allow us to harness the power of the wind and turn it into energy. When the wind blows, the wind turbine's blades spin clockwise, capturing energy of the wind. This triggers the main shaft of the wind turbine, connected to a gearbox within the nacelle, to spin. The gearbox sends that energy to the generator, converting it to electricity. Wind electricity then travels to a transformer, where voltage levels are adjusted to match with the grid.
Africa has abundant resources for renewable energy harvesting. Not only through wind farms in Africa but with solar as well, since the continent has year-round sunlight. However, the massive potential here is not being seized, and over 500 million Africans still lack access to any electricity at all. Entrepreneurs should take this golden opportunity to invest in renewable energy in Africa. Help the continent develop in a sustainable way, one that’s good for the environment and improves the lives of the people.
According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), 944MW of wind energy capacity was installed in Africa and the Middle East in 2019, of which Siemens Gamesa’s latest 262MW wind farm project in Egypt equivalent to powering over 250.000 households. GWEC Market Intelligence’s preliminary forecasts 10.7 GW of wind energy capacity to be installed between 2020-2024, an increase of 167% compared to the current market status.
Africa has the potential and the ability to utilise its renewable resources to fuel its future with clean energy. Doing so is economically viable compared to other solutions and offers substantial benefits in terms of local value creation, energy security and environmental sustainability mainly through job opportunities creation improving the conditions and standard of living for the majority of the continent’s population and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution.
An increasing number of countries have recognised such benefits and are implementing ambitious renewable energy plans and actively pursue the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Examples include Egypt which has committed to source 42% of its total electricity from renewable energy by 2035 or Morocco with its renewable energy target of 52% by 2030. Meanwhile, South Africa plans to install an additional 3.3 GW of wind energy capacity over the next five years covering close to 20% of the electricity consumption in the country.
With just 0.1 percent of the 2011 world market in Africa and the Middle East, the continent is still playing catch up. Large-upfront costs mean wind is a long way away from overtaking dirtier but cheaper energy sources like coal and gas. By 2030, wind is only expected to account for two percent of Africa's power mix, according to the International Energy Agency. Coal is set to remain king at 37 percent, followed by gas at 32 percent. "It won't become a dominant power source but it will become an important contributor to the energy mix
The wind industry in Africa is still small and concentrated, although substantial progress has been observed over the last ten years. In August 2017, the total capacity was recorded at 4.1GW, the equivalent of four conventional nuclear power plants. This figure is slightly below the 1% mark of the cumulative global capacity according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) but still an almost 300% increase from 1.1GW in 2011. The South African REIPPPP, launched in 2011, is mainly responsible for this marked expansion.
The country is by far the biggest producer with more than 1.6GW of operational wind energy capacity, followed by Morocco and Egypt. The two latter countries are progressively recovering from the Arab spring that has put a halt on local industries. An interesting fact is that Egypt was at the forefront of the industry back in the 1980s and the first sizeable project it built was a 4-turbine wind farm with a capacity of 400kW.
According to the IEA, African grid-based power generation was 158GW in 2012. A projection of the current capacity of wind power generation would mean that the sector represents only 2.5% of the production.
McKinsey and the IEA forecasts are predicting that by 2040, while the population in sub-Saharan Africa will double and the economy will grow by a factor of four, the energy demand will significantly increase by around 80% under the effects of clean energy policies. Taking a demand-driven approach, the total power generation capacity will quadruple to 385GW, from 90GW in 2012.