Wind energy in Africa

While in the past wind power was considered to be a renewable energy source primarily for developed countries, this is slowly changing. Since 2004, wind energy production has risen steadily worldwide and the actively installed global capacity increased from 40000 MW at the end of 2003 to 94000 MW at the end of 2007 (European Wind Energy Association 2009).

According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC, 2011), more wind farm capacity was newly installed in developing countries and emerging economies than in the traditional wind markets of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2010.

Also in Africa, the potential of wind energy has started to be recognized and in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia wind farms have already been installed. Currently, by far the largest share in wind energy production in Africa is held by Egypt where 97% of all wind farm installations are located with total capacities of 550 MW (GWEC, 2011).

In Morocco wind turbines capacity of around 290 MW exists and in Tunisia the annual wind production amounts to about 120 MW. While wind farms currently exist predominantly in Northern Africa mostly along the Mediterranean coast, wind farm projects are now also under discussion for other areas.

Currently planned are the establishment of wind farm production for Nigeria with capacities of about 10 MW, in Ethiopia for about 120 MW, and for Kenya with capacity of 300 MW).

Estimate of mean winds across Africa

Wind energy production depends primarily on wind speed and how the winds are changing during the day, a season, a year or even over decades. In order to estimate the actual available wind power, wind observations over several decades from dense station networks or high resolution wind modelling would be required.

Both are not available for Africa for this study, and therefore the potential wind power energy has been estimated instead. It is based on re-analysis data provided by the European Centre of Medium-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF). Re-analysis data incorporate observations and numerical weather prediction output to provide a continually updated best estimate of the state of the Earth’s atmosphere.

It has the advantage that it is available for every grid point distributed equally across entire Africa. The data set has been validated with observations as reported by a study from the German Weather Service and it appears that the data are sufficiently suitable to provide a reasonable estimate of potential wind power on continental scale.

This study is based on the mean winds at 100 m above ground for a period from 1979 to 2010. 6 hourly re-analysis model output data on grid cells with roughly a size of 75×75 km2 have been used.