Let’s be honest – when considering renewables, solar comes to mind as the ‘quick win’. The other predominant resource, wind power (whether onshore or offshore), is described as laborious to get off the ground.
However, an IFC report puts an end to this perception. The Wind energy: uniting for an African take-off policy note indicates that the potential of onshore wind alone is enough to meet 250 times the electricity demand of the entire continent.
In terms of cost, IRENA calculated that the weighted levelized average cost of electricity (LCOE) of new onshore wind projects added in 2021 fell 15%, year-over-year, to $0.033/ kWh, while that of offshore wind decreased by 13%. at $0.075/kWh.
Even as the LCOE improves, there are challenges to overcome, particularly in Africa’s unique geopolitical environment.
These challenges include suitable sites most likely being located in remote locations, far from the load profile and the existing transmission network. An additional cost is therefore the need for newly constructed transmission lines and substations to evacuate electricity.
Meanwhile, suitable sites might require innovative techniques to erect towers in unfamiliar soil types. Don’t forget that even in remote places, certain developments can cause noise and aesthetic nuisances. There is also the importance of considering historical land rights and the possible effect on nomadic communities.
Although there is always concern about how the wind power plant will alter habitat, long-term EIAs must show how the power plant will impact plants and wildlife (many of which are endemic to areas very localized) and will endanger birds and bats.
Many challenges require long-term solutions and one company that takes this to heart is BTE Renewables. In 2021, the company launched its flagship operational biodiversity management programs. This fit-for-purpose biodiversity action plan has been formulated at each site, illustrating a commitment to best practice. These include on-site mitigation programs and off-site conservation programs with conservation partners.
Is there a market for offshore wind?
Overcoming challenges can and should be our goal, and through concerted efforts, such as those led by the BTE team, are achievable. Let me reiterate a conundrum presented in the IFC brief – onshore wind potential alone is enough to meet Africa’s electricity demand 250 times more. Now imagine the possibilities if we could harness just a fraction of this potential capacity. What if we add offshore wind power to the mix?
David Wotherspoon, head of new geographies for UK-based OWC, has researched the potential for offshore wind power across Africa. He thinks this sub-sector is promising, but advises: “Developers and financiers will seek a stable, planned investment environment – provide it, and the interest will come.”
According to Wotherspoon, parts of Africa, and in particular South Africa, have excellent offshore wind resources. It will therefore be up to the developers to secure their place (fixed offshore wind turbine) or adopt a newer approach with offshore floating technologies.
Companies excelling in the fixed or floating offshore wind market with an eye on Africa’s vast coastline can promote their expert ideas in our next edition which will be distributed as a bonus at the Windaba conference in October. Talk to my colleague Amelie Lozano about adding your solutions to ESI Africa Issue 2 today.
Until next week.