Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 44, November 2009
Southern Africa turns to wind to improve alternative energy supplies
By Kizito Sikuka

SADC Member States are slowly turning to wind power to boost production and meet the ever-growing demand for electricity in the region, as the need for cleaner and alternative energy sources gains momentum.

Among the countries leading the search on how to harness the huge wind potential that lies untapped in the region are Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to provide more than 170 gigawatts (GW) of additional power generation capacity - far more than the sub-region’s current installations -- through exploiting “low-carbon” energy sources such as wind, hydro and solar, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Wind energy, which involves using air to turn turbines and generate electricity, is regarded as one of the most reliable and clean forms of power that does not pollute the environment compared to other forms such as thermal.

Wind farms are also relatively easier to construct - as it takes only a year to build one with a capacity of 100 megawatts (MW).

Because of this, SADC Member States are scaling up their efforts to exploit the alternative source of energy that has emerged as one of the most lucrative source of “carbon financing” under the Clean Development Mechanism.

South Africa plans to commission at least 400 MW of wind power by independent power producers within the next three years.

Most of the plants will be located along the West Coast that has the potential to generate about 10,000 MW of electricity.

Eskom, the national power utility believes that the wind revolution in the county has the capacity to generate 10 times the official wind energy estimates.

South Africa has two major wind projects at Klipheuwel and Darling, both in the Western Cape.

The Klipheuwel plant -- the first wind power in Sub-Saharan Africa -- has the capacity to deliver enough power for 2,500 households while the Darling plant, which is the country's first commercial wind farm with four wind turbines -- has potential to produce about 5.2 MW of electricity.

In the north of Madagascar, a massive wind farm is due for construction in 2010 as the country aims to stabilize its local energy supply.

The island nation depends too much on petroleum for energy, a situation that leads to excessive air pollution.

Hence the country plans to build its first wind farm in Ramena near Antisarana that will be connected to the national grid.

The wind farm project is regarded as a first step in a larger programme that will see the entire island draw its energy from the wind and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Namibia has announced plans to build a wind farm at the Walvis Bay to generate 300 MW of electricity.

The wind farm, to be established in phases and expected to be operational by 2011, will be Namibia’s second plant.

The first plant, which is still under negotiation, is to be located in Lüderitz, according to NamPower.

In Mozambique, Energy Minister Salvador Namburete has revealed a joint wind project with Italian investors to implement a wind farm in Matutuíne district. The farm has the capacity to produce more than 20 MW of power.

Tanzania plans to build a 50 MW wind farm in the central region of the country. The project, which is due to be operational in 2015, is being advanced to 2010 to ensure adequate power.

While wind power projects are not being implemented on a large scale in other SADC countries, efforts are underway to explore ways to harness wind energy.

In Angola, Botswana and Zimbabwe, wind energy is being utilized for pumping water for livestock as well as domestic supply in rural areas.

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SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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