First privately owned wind farm to launch in Egypt

Egypt’s first privately owned wind farm is set to launch in 2013.  This is part of a ambitious climate change strategy that includes producing a fifth of Egypt’s power from renewable energy sources by 2020.

CAIRO (AlertNet) – Egypt plans to launch its first privately owned wind farm in 2013 under an ambitious climate change strategy that includes producing a fifth of its power from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Trading fossil fuels for greener energy like solar, wind and water helps curb the carbon emissions that are heating up the planet. Global warming is expected to bring higher sea levels and more extreme weather, putting the world’s food and water supplies at risk.

Rising seas are a looming threat in Egypt, where over half the population lives within 100 km (62 miles) of the Nile River coastline. Officials say 6 to 8 million people could be displaced and nearly half the country’s crops, which are grown along the Nile Delta, submerged.

The wind farm – expected to produce 250 megawatts (MW) of power – will be located in the Gulf of Suez along the Red Sea, regarded as one of the world’s best wind energy sites, with wind speeds of up to 11 metres per second. Ten local and foreign companies have been shortlisted for the scheme, which is expected to come online by the end of 2013.

“The Gulf of Suez is an excellent area for wind farms. Several projects are under way to create more wind parks there, which could have capacity of around 2,000 MW,” said Mohab Hallouda, a senior energy specialist at the World Bank.

In June, the bank loaned Egypt $220 million to develop wind power, which will help the country meet its 20 percent renewable energy target. Two fifths of that will come from hydropower generation and the rest from solar and wind.

Hallouda said the loan, which is mostly from the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund (CTF), will help finance a transmission line to transfer the electricity produced by the wind farms to the country’s power grid.

The CTF was set up in 2008 by donor nations which pledged about $5 billion to kick start large, risky investments in clean technology in developing countries ahead of a new global deal to tackle climate change.

This investment privately and publically by the state in solar and wind energy could not be better timed.

Egypt’s push on renewable energy could not be more timely, as electricity demand in the Arab world’s most populous country is increasing at around six percent each year.

The country experienced consistent power outages – the worst in decades – during the last few weeks of summer as temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius. The blackouts provoked public anger, which had already been on the rise over increasing living costs. Nearly a fifth of Egypt’s population of close to 82 million lives on less than $2 a day.

Government officials blamed the power outages on increased consumption in the peak summer season, and have vowed to boost power capacity.

Egypt already has publicly owned wind farms in the Zafarana area, south of the Gulf of Suez, with a capacity of 520 MW, as well as a small research and development wind park in Hurghada, further south along the Red Sea.

But so far the electricity generated from existing wind farms accounts for only around two percent of the country’s total installed power capacity of approximately 25 gigawatts (GW). Most of Egypt’s electricity – around 85 percent – comes from thermal power stations, which are mainly fueled by natural gas.

This investment in renewable energy whether by the state or private firms is good especially when geographically Egypt has the right mix of sun for solar energy, water energy thanks to the river Nile and enough wind for wind farms.

For more on Solar energy in Africa, see this previous post on the topic.

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