AFRICANGLOBE – The Horn of African country of Ethiopia is building the continent’s biggest wind farms by taking advantage of the strong winds blowing over Adama rocky hills in the country’s highlands.
According to a new report, the government of Ethiopia sees Adama region as a perfect location for the construction of three wind farms, the first of which has been already made operational.
“In February, during the dry season, it is even difficult to stand here,” said Solomon Yismaw, the engineer, who is in charge of 102 Chinese-built turbines, each 70-meter (230 feet) high, which are used in the project, AFP reported.
The first Adama wind farm was inaugurated almost a month ago with the capacity to produce 153 megawatt (MW) of electricity, which makes it the largest wind farm in Africa.
According to local officials, the hills in Adama region, which is located 100 kilometres (60 miles) southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa, stand 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) above the sea level.
Ethiopia, a country devoid of oil and gas reserves, is now paying more attention to its capacity for production of renewable energy in order to support its rapid economic growth. In doing so, the country has been also considering construction of dams on the Blue Nile, whose turbines currently account for over 90 percent of the country’s power generation.
Production of hydropower in Ethiopia is, however, amenable to fluctuating rainfall. “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, adding that wind turbines are immune to reduction of rainfall in the dry season.
He added that when the dry spells hit the country “at that time the wind will complement the dam. The wind is especially strong during dry season, so wind and hydro complement each other.”
Demand for energy has been constantly on the rise in Ethiopia during recent years. According to figures released by the Ethiopian Energy Ministry, over 75 percent of the country’s population of 94 million is not connected to the national power grid, and Addis Ababa needs to boost power generation by 20-25 percent per year to meet rising demand.
“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, who added, “Within 24 months we have constructed this big wind farm of 153 MW — hydro would have taken much longer.”