Ethiopia’s Got the Power with New Wind Farm
The largest sub-Saharan wind farm has officially started production in Ethiopia after the third and final phase was completed this month. The Ashegoda wind farm will now provide an alternative source of electricity to the country and, help Ethiopia become a major regional provider of energy. This comes nearly four years, and $289.68 million (USD) after the first construction plans began in 2009.
Ethiopia currently generates about 90 percent of its electricity through hydropower resources, plaguing the country with blackouts during droughts and dry seasons. The new 120-megawatt (MW), 84-turbine wind farm will give residents a major energy source, that’s not dependent on water levels. “It compliments hydropower, which is seasonal. When you have a dry water season we have higher wind speed,” Mihret Debebe, CEO of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation told Reuters, “there is harmony between the two sources of energy.”
The country also has goals to become one of the leading producers of renewable energy in the region. They already have two smaller wind farms producing about 51 MW each, and recently announced a $4 billion agreement with an Icelandic firm to utilize its geothermal power and produce an additional 1,000 MW from steam. The government’s ultimate goal is to build a “climate resilient” economy by 2025.
There are some challenges providing the country’s own residents with electricity. Approximately 77 percent of people in Ethiopia do not have access to electricity, and most of the power generated will be sold to neighboring countries. However, the Ethiopian government says money gained from energy sales could help pay for connecting more people to the grid. The U.S. government has also joined the cause, announcing a $7 billion initiative, called Power Africa, to increase electrical access across sub-Saharan Africa over the next 5 years.
With a growing economy and a government becoming increasingly stable, Ethiopia’s energy goals are quite achievable. The country’s economy has grown nearly 10 percent in the last decade and, according to Reuters, has a wind energy potential of 1.3 million MW. Most importantly, the people of Ethiopia want green power. Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, Steve Sawyer, said, “People see what’s happening in China with the air pollution and they don’t want coal-fired power stations. [green energy] is becoming an economic option.” The inauguration for the Ashegoda wind farm was held Saturday, October 26 by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.
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