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[Indepth Analysis] Is Africa Windy?

Is Africa Windy?

Africa has a long coastline with abundant wind and wave power resources that are underutilised in the north and south.

In many eastern African countries, geothermal energy has the potential to provide significant amounts of energy.

Modern onshore wind turbines, some of which stand more than 160 meters tall, are particularly abundant in several countries, powering tens of millions of households and employing millions of people.

Wind turbines, on the other hand, are a rare sight in Africa, a continent with massive energy needs and significant wind potential.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on African economies, the World Bank predicts that Sub-Saharan Africa will grow at a rate of 2.3—3.4 per cent this year.

To support long-term growth, the region will require clean, affordable, and dependable power generation, implying that solar and wind energy will play an important role.

Wind energy is demonstrating its potential.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the world added a record 93 GW of new wind capacity in 2020.

According to GWEC, 469 GW of new wind power capacity will be installed globally over the next five years.

Amidst this global expansion, Africa accounts for less than 1% of the world’s installed wind capacity.

All the same, there have been reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for African wind development, as recent studies indicate that more wind resources are available for wind generation in many more African countries than previously thought.

The IFC recently commissioned a study to assess the potential for wind power in Africa, which discovered that it has an astonishing technical wind potential of nearly 180,000 terawatt hours per year.

This is enough to meet the entire continent’s electricity demands 250 times over.

According to the study, two-thirds of Africa’s total wind potential is located in areas with average wind speeds of more than 7.5 metres per second.

Types of Wind in Africa (African Winds)

1. Sirocco

This warm, humid wind blows from North Africa and picks up moisture as it travels across the Mediterranean to southern Europe.

It brings uncomfortably humid air and strong winds with it.

2. Cape Doctor, South Africa

When the weather in Cape Town, South Africa, becomes hot and uncomfortable in the summer, the locals rely on a doctor to keep them cool: the Cape Doctor, a cooling south-easterly wind that blows over Western Camp Province.

3. Khamsin, Egypt

Between April and June, this dry and dusty wind blows in from the desert towards the Mediterranean, bringing sandstorms to northern Egypt.

Its name is derived from the Arabic word khamsin, which means ‘fifty,’ referring to the number of days it is said to blow.

When it hits Cairo, it creates an almost biblical effect, choking the city’s air with a thick red cloud of dust.

4. Harmattan, West Africa

A dry wind blowing from the east over north-west Africa, bringing large amounts of dust from the desert and enveloping the countryside in a thick haze, leaving skin dry, lips cracked, and everything covered in dust.

However, there is a silver lining. The dry air reduces humidity by half.

And much of the dust is carried across the Atlantic, eventually reaching the Amazon, where the phosphorus in the dust replaces nutrients lost due to rain and flooding.

It is usually at its peak in the late fall and winter (late November to mid-March)

Wind Power in Africa (Development of Wind Energy for Energy Generation)

Hydropower has historically been the longest-standing and largest green energy source used in Africa’s electricity supply industry, but solar and wind have seen a rise in fortune over the last two decades.

However, the African wind energy market is perceived to be lagging behind other clean energy technologies; however, understanding the market can dispel this perception.

What is the size of Africa’s wind energy market?

The African wind industry is still minimal and confined, despite significant progress over the last ten years. The total capacity was 4.1GW in August 2017, the equivalent of four conventional nuclear power plants.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), this figure is slightly less than 1% of total global capacity, but it represents a nearly 300 per cent increase from 1.1GW in 2011.

The South African REIPPPP, which was launched in 2011, is primarily responsible for this significant expansion.

With over 1.6GW of operational wind energy capacity, the country is by far the largest producer, followed by Morocco and Egypt.

The two latter countries are gradually recovering from the Arab Spring, which halted local industries.

Egypt was at the forefront of the industry in the 1980s, and the first significant project it built was a 4-turbine wind farm with a capacity of 400kW.

What are the main obstacles?

The industry faces three types of challenges: policy, technical, and economic.

1. Policy issues to consider

To thrive, the wind industry, like any other, requires a clear strategic and regulatory framework.

With the exception of the countries of North Africa and South Africa, no other country has implemented a clear plan to boost the industry.

Under the impetus of international agreements such as the Paris Accord, 34 of the 55 African nations have established renewable energy targets – some even going so far as to set a wind quota – but there is still a significant gap in implementation plans.

2. Technical difficulties

Wind, like solar, is an intermittent energy source that cannot be predicted. Furthermore, the wind does not have storage capabilities.

These two shortcomings primarily explain why wind is not currently regarded as reliable enough for baseload supply.

Because electricity cannot be stored, the entire management process revolves around balancing supply and demand.

3. Economic difficulties

Trying to assess the economic viability of wind power generation is undoubtedly critical in determining the wind industry’s growth potential. Renewable energy costs have generally decreased over the years, but capital costs remain the most significant financial issue.

What are Africa’s wind energy prospects?

According to the IEA, African grid-based power generation in 2012 was 158GW.

According to current wind power generation capacity projections, the sector accounts for only 2.5 per cent of total production.

According to McKinsey and the IEA, while the population in Sub-Saharan Africa will double and the economy will grow by a factor of four by 2040, energy demand will rise by around 80% as a result of clean energy policies.

Using a demand-driven approach, total power generation capacity will be more than quadruple to 385GW, up from 90GW in 2012.

Bold and holistic visions that look at and integrate aspects together, as well as initiatives to boost knowledge and regional capabilities, have the potential to transform the industry.

With strong will and leadership, Africa has the tools to shift the paradigm and catapult wind into another success story, similar to how the mobile industry did yesterday and solar is doing today.

Onshore Wind Africa

According to a new study for IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, continental Africa has a remarkable onshore wind potential of nearly 180,000 Terawatt hours (TWh) per year, enough to meet the entire continent’s electricity demands 250 times over.

According to Everoze’s analysis, 27 African countries have enough wind potential to meet the entire continent’s electricity demand, which is estimated to be 700 TWh per year.

Algeria has the most potential, with a total potential of 7,700 Gigawatts (GW), which is more than 11 times the current global installed wind capacity.

Mauritania, Mali, Egypt, Namibia, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Kenya are among the 15 countries with technical wind potentials exceeding 1,000 GW.

According to the analysis, more than one-third of Africa’s wind potential is in areas with very strong winds averaging more than 8.5 meters per second.

Seventeen of the countries studied have particularly strong wind potential, with average productivity (as measured by their “capacity factors”) reaching up to 46 per cent, rivalling the world’s most productive onshore wind sites.

Windiest Place in Africa

Cape Point, Western Cape is the windiest place in Africa.

The average wind speed per year is 14.1 m/s, with 42.1% of wind speeds exceeding 8 m/s.

However, the strongest wind gust ever recorded in South Africa occurred on 16 May 1984 at Beaufort West (Western Cape) and measured 186 km/h.

Author Profile

John Aina has a Masters degree as an engineer and has over 3 years of teaching and research experience. John is happiest when he is on a bike and is also interested in Solar technology.
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    [Indepth Analysis] Is Africa Windy?

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