Ethiopia har­nesses green power

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

ADAMA — The wind blows hard over Adama, a range of rocky hills in Ethiopia’s high­lands that pro­vide the per­fect lo­ca­tion for one of the con­ti­nent’s largest wind farms.

“In Fe­bru­ary, dur­ing the dry sea­son, it is even dif­fi­cult to stand here,” said Solomon Yis­maw, the engi­neer in charge of 102 Chi­nese-built tur­bines each ris­ing 70 me­tres (230 feet) into the sky, lin­ing the hori­zon.

The Adama wind farm opened last month, its 153 megawatt (MW) ca­pac­ity mak­ing it the largest wind farm in sub-sa­ha­ran Africa, and the latest of three gi­ant Ethiopian wind farms.

The hills here, 100 kilo­me­tres south­east of the cap­i­tal Ad­dis Ababa, are 2 000 me­tres high.

Farm­ers us­ing sim­ple ox carts to plough the soil around the bases of the wind tur­bines of­fer a strik­ing con­trast be­tween ru­ral lives, lit­tle changed for cen­turies, and the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s am­bi­tion to de­velop a mod­ern, cli­mate-re­silient econ­omy.

With­out its own re­serves of ei­ther gas or oil, Ethiopia is turn­ing to its sig­nif­i­cant re­new­able energy po­ten­tial to fuel its rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment — in­clud­ing damming the vast Blue Nile, with tur­bines there pro­vid­ing over 90 per­cent of the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion, and the south­ern Omo River.

But the flow of rivers is sub­ject to rain­fall that is er­ratic in Ethiopia.

“We have an abun­dance of hy­dro­elec­tric energy sources, but dur­ing the dry sea­son and when droughts hap­pen the level of the dam de­creases,” said Solomon, who pointed out that the wind tur­bines were im­mune to the dry spells.

Mas­sive power needs “At that time the wind will com­ple­ment the dam. The wind is es­pe­cially strong dur­ing dry sea­son, so wind and hy­dro com­ple­ment each other,” said Solomon.

Ethiopia’s energy needs are huge. Over 75 per­cent of Ethiopia’s 94 mil­lion peo­ple, mainly those liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas, are not con­nected to the na­tional grid, and the coun­try needs to in­crease its elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion by 20 to 25 per­cent per year to meet ris­ing de­mand, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the coun­try’s energy min­istry.

Ethiopia has set a tar­get of slash­ing its car­bon emis­sions by two-thirds within the next 15 years, the most am­bi­tious na­tional goal yet pre­sented to an up­com­ing United Na­tions cli­mate change con­fer­ence in Paris later this year.

Ethiopia said it plans to cut emis­sions by adopt­ing cleaner prac­tices in agri­cul­ture, con­struc­tion and trans­port, as well as slow­ing de­for­esta­tion. While work con­tin­ues on the vast Re­nais­sance dam on the Nile — the largest in Africa — Ethiopia is work­ing to boost other green power projects, har­ness­ing geo­ther­mal, so­lar and wind energy.

“Wind farms are fast track projects, we can con­struct them within a short time,” said Ta­h­aguas An­de­mariam, con­sul­tant engi­neer and pro­fes­sor at the univer­sity of Adama.

“Within 24 months we have con­structed this big wind farm of 153 MW — hy­dro would have taken much longer,” he said.

The 6 000 MW that the Re­nais­sance dam will gen­er­ate will dwarf the out­put of the Adama wind farm, but the con­struc­tion of the fa­cil­ity which be­gan in 2011 isn’t slated to fin­ish un­til 2017. Yet the Adama wind farm can still power about 10 mil­lion ef­fi­cient light bulbs. Another wind farm, even larger in size and in­tended to pro­duce 300 MW, is due to be con­structed at Aye­sha in the re­mote eastern desert near the bor­der with Dji­bouti, another area with strong winds.

“We now have the knowl­edge how to de­velop the roadmap of this wind tech­nol­ogy in Ethiopia,” said Ta­h­aguas, who spent a month in China work­ing with other engi­neers to learn more about the tur­bines. — AFP

A farmer ploughs his land with an oxen near a tur­bine of the Adama wind farm in Adama, south of the cap­i­tal Adis Ababa.

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