Ethiopia’s infamous droughts don’t just condemn the country to periodic famine; they also deprive it of electricity.
In a major step toward diversifying a power system that’s almost entirely reliant on hydropower, the country has built Africa’s largest wind farm. Power production started at the $290 million Ashegoda Wind Farm on Saturday, four years after construction began. From Reuters:
The 120 MW, 84-turbine farm — straddling a sprawling field of grassland dotted by stone-brick hamlets more than 780 kilometers north of Addis Ababa — is part of a plan to mitigate the impact of dry seasons on the country’s dams.
At present, Ethiopia’s energy resources are almost completely derived from hydropower projects.
“It compliments hydropower, which is seasonal. When you have a dry water season we have higher wind speed,” said Mihret Debebe, CEO of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation.
“There is harmony between the two sources of energy.”
Last week, Ethiopia also signed a preliminary agreement with a U.S.-Icelandic firm for a $4 billion private sector investment intended to tap its vast geothermal power resources and produce 1,000 MW from steam.
During a speech at the weekend inauguration, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said “there is potential to harness abundant wind energy resources in every region of Ethiopia.”
But Ethiopia is still looking to boost its hydropower generation. The country plans to build a 6,000-megawatt Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on a tributary of the Nile. If completed as planned, it will cost $4.2 billion and be the largest dam in Africa. Downstream neighbors like Egypt would probably prefer a lot more wind turbines.